Jamaica’s women’s national soccer team, the Reggae Girlz, is set to make its historic debut at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France on Sunday.
The Reggae Girlz already made history in October when they became the first Caribbean nation to qualify for the premier tournament. Now the groundbreaking athletes will make their World Cup debut on Sunday when they play against the Brazilian national women’s team on the world stage.
The Jamaican team’s journey to the World Cup has notably been filled with adversity.
Due to a lack of funding from the Jamaica Football Federation, the Reggae Girlz had remained dormant for years, until 2014, when Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella Marley became an ambassador for the team to help drum up financial support.
Cedella Marley told Complex in 2014 that the players not only needed funding for basic expenses, including transportation, training and uniforms, in their attempt to qualify for the 2015 World Cup ― they needed the support and widespread recognition often given to the nation’s men’s team, the Reggae Boyz.
“The girls have always been left to fend for themselves,” she told the publication. “But as women, we’re used to doing that. Nothing new. And I think the girls, with the little that they have, have been doing an incredible job on their own.”
Along with her public advocacy and sponsorship via the Bob Marley Foundation, Cedella Marley released a single in 2014 titled “Strike Hard,” with her brothers Damian and Stephen, to help cover team expenses.
But after the Reggae Girlz failed to qualify for the 2015 World Cup, they faced more cuts in funding and were disbanded by the Jamaica Football Federation again in 2016, NPR reported.
Cedella Marley continued her advocacy for the women’s team, and later partnered with the Alacran Foundation, another sponsor of the team. The Reggae Girlz head coach, Hue Menzies, also joined the campaign to resurrect the team and initially took the leadership position as a volunteer.
Speaking about the importance of equity in resources ― and widespread interest ― given to women’s sports teams, Cedella Marley told NPR in an article published Saturday: “Everyone should have the right to go after their dreams and passions without gender being a factor.”
Reggae Girlz forward Khadija Shaw explained to the publication that the adversities her team has faced over the years have taught her that “talent can only go so far.”
And while the Jamaican team is the clear underdog in the tournament, Shaw told NPR, “You can never predict what’s going to happen. And I feel like we are going to be the team to shock everybody in this World Cup.”