And just like that, the Reggae Girlz ended their fantastic run at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. In a high-intensity clash, they lost 1-0 to Columbia and dashed the hopes of many in Australia’s Melbourne Rectangular Stadium and around the world. The Girlz had become underdog favorites as the first Caribbean team to make it into the final 16 in the Cup’s 85 years and for their shut outs of the powerful French and Brazilian teams.
Those feats alone are reason enough to celebrate. But they also showed grit and determination and welded into a formidable force that gives Jamaica’s women football high hopes for the future. While their Cinderella-like story didn’t take them to the finals, their often arduous journey raised their profile and brought support from many quarters.
When their spirits were low, Cedella Marley, long their fairy godmother, raised the volume as cheerleader in chief. After the Brazil game, she said their saga will force Jamaica to catch up eventually with the love they get from the rest of the world. Her backing must be credited with getting the Girlz to Australia.
The quality of the team’s performance on the field this season lifted spirits here and gave young women new pride. The entire country now eagerly looks to the future of Jamaican women’s football, especially with the inclusion of Diaspora Jamaicans who have helped to strengthen the team. They bring experience and a strong will to win that has fired up the local players.
We don’t want to choose favorites but it would be unkind not to single out the brilliance of goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer and the hard work she did between the posts. Team captain Khadija “Bunny” Shaw led by example and was a powerful threat in all the games. The Swaby sisters, Chantelle and Allyson, Trudy Spence and Deneisha Blackwood also deserve mention. But truth be told, it is the entire team that won our hearts. They played as a unit and with a Jamaican feistiness that at times seemed it could take them all the way.
Their triumph is almost certain to bring improvements to our women's football and new attention from government and corporate Jamaica. The Girlz flew our flag high and furiously so that the world now knows there is a team from the Caribbean to watch at the next FIFA World Cup.