Jamaica was one of 32 nations competing for the title of football world champions at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World cup. From 20 July to 20 August, matches were played at venues in both Australia and New Zealand, the joint hosts.
What were the Jamaican team’s achievements, their challenges and inspiration for us all?
The Jamaican team, the Reggae Girlz, were the only Caribbean team to qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the first from the region to make a second consecutive appearance at the finals. At the Reggae Girlz maiden 2019 FIFA World Cup outing in France, they conceded 12 goals to one.
At their second appearance in 2023 things were different with the Reggae Girlz reaching the knock-out round from one win and two draws. The Reggae Girlz’ World Cup dream stopped at the Round of 16 when Colombia scored a second-half goal to send the Jamaicans home. This win, the Reggae Girlz only loss, put Colombia into the Quarterfinals.
Ranked 43rd at the start of the 2023 tournament, the Reggae Girlz are now the 37th best international team in the world according to the latest FIFA World Rankings.
Needless to say, many of us living in Australia / New Zealand or visiting from a-far were there to support the Reggae Girlz. Watch a FIFA recorded video of us supporting our team at the Jamaica vs France match in Sydney on 23 July 2023.
The Reggae Girlz fought against all odds to create this history at the 2023 World Cup.
In 2008, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) ceased funding the women’s team, claiming it was impossible given its finances, despite continuing to fund the men’s side. By 2014, Cedella Marley, eldest daughter of reggae icon and soccer lover Bob Marley, stepped in to help finance the team. She produced a single to raise money for the Reggae Girlz and provided sponsorship through the family’s Bob Marley Foundation.
In 2016 the Reggae Girlz was again disbanded by the national federation, leading to Cedella calling for change within the JFF. The Marleys continued to fund the Reggae Girlz through the family’s foundation. In 2018 Michelle Adamolekun started the non-profit Reggae Girlz Foundation with the four goals to: inspire; educate; develop; and mobilise.
While Cedella is undoubtedly the team’s most important benefactor and champion, the Reggae Girlz Foundation looks to create a sustainable infrastructure for women’s football in Jamaica going forward, and to serve as a tool to hold the JFF accountable.
The Reggae Girlz continue to fight for JFF financial backing, even during buildup to the 2023 Women’s World Cup. This resulted in Sandra Phillips-Brower, (mother of midfielder Havana Solaun) and the Reggae Girlz Foundation starting GoFundMes to help pay for training camp, food, staff support, travel and compensation.
The Reggae Girlz have been disbanded twice in the last 10 years with Cedella playing a key role in resurrecting the team on both occasions.
The struggles faced by the Reggae Girlz have been an inspiring journey of hope and resilience.
The Reggae Girlz achievements made Jamaica the first-ever Caribbean team to reach the knockout stage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. To accomplish this feat they knocked out Brazil, one of the heavyweights of the game. To make the last 16, the Reggae Girlz produced a defensive masterclass to deny Brazil a win, result: a goalless draw!
Despite the struggle in getting to this level and difficulties in attracting sustainable funding and support, this is certainly an inspirational journey.
Thanks to the many contributors, supporters and the fighting spirit of the team, the Reggae Girlz has a bright future. Of special mention are Cedella Marley, an official ambassador for the Reggae Girlz, Michelle Adamolekun, founder of the Reggae Girlz Foundation and others like Sandra Phillips-Brower, mother of a player.
The Reggae Girlz’s next target is to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Having regard to the Reggae Girlz achievements and demonstrated commitment, we predict a bright future.
It was such an honour to see the Reggae Girlz play for Jamaica. Enjoy the video.