Tuesday 21 August 2018, 09:55

Reggae Girlz aim to find their World Cup rhythm

  • Jamaica hosts Caribbean Women’s World Cup qualifiers

  • Reggae Girlz enjoying support from the Bob Marley Foundation

  • CONCACAF teams for France 2019 will be determined in October

Reggae and the name Marley have long been synonymous with Jamaica. Football perhaps less so, but all those elements have come together to the benefit of the country’s women's national side.

And the Reggae Girlz hope their odyssey will include groundbreaking qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™. Jamaica’s elongated path to France 2019 reaches another important milestone on Saturday when they host the Caribbean zone qualifiers for the CONCACAF Championship.

Three of the five competing nations - along with two nations from the concurrent Central American qualifiers - will win passage to October’s continental tournament.

Cedella Marley, daughter of the Reggae icon Bob Marley and a respected musician in her own right, has been supporting the national team via the Bob Marley Foundation for the past four years.

“I’m a firm believer that every girl should have the opportunity to pursue her dreams, whether it’s football, music, business, whatever it is,” Cedella Marley said ahead of the Reggae Girlz’ unsuccessful qualifying campaign for Canada 2015.

The Marley name brings both respect and attention in Jamaica. That means the backing has provided multiple benefits, in terms of profile, credibility and financial support.

“That support from the Bob Marley Foundation has been so important to us,” Jamaica coach Hue Menzies told FIFA.com. “Bob Marley loved football, of course. Cedella has continued that passion and she really wants to help women’s football develop in Jamaica.”

Providing complementary support to the national team is the Alacran Foundation, which is a United Kingdom-registered charity that plans to build music schools in Jamaica.

Four years ago, Trinidad and Tobago fell agonisingly short becoming the first Caribbean nation to reach the Women’s World Cup when they suffered an unlucky intercontinental play-off defeat against Ecuador.

Jamaica finished third in their group, but were not far off the pace in suffering narrow defeats against Mexico and Costa Rica. But this time Menzies believes his side are in a stronger position than they were four years ago for a variety of reasons.

Numerous squad members are “more experienced and mature” because of that campaign. Around six squad members play their football in Europe, with top-flight clubs in the Netherlands, Sweden and Iceland, while the remainder of the squad are mostly based in USA’s highly-competitive college football system.

A new national league has commenced this year in Jamaica and there is strong local interest ahead of the tournament in Kingston. “This is an important and rare opportunity for the players to showcase themselves and women’s football in front of a home audience,” said Menzies, a highly experienced London-born, Jamaican-raised coach with many years plying his trade in USA.

Jamaica have reason for optimism in a group which also features Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, and Bermuda. They have already seen off a strong Haiti side during May's opening round of qualifiers, with the Haitians having proven their fast-growing stature over the past month in France during the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

What chance do Jamaica have of becoming the first Caribbean nation to reach a Women’s World Cup?

“Trinidad showed what can be done [four years ago],” said Menzies. “Many of the nations in this region are developing strongly and putting more focus on women’s football.”

Caribbean Zone final round National Stadium, Kingston, Jamaica – 25 August-2 September Antigua and Barbuda Bermuda Cuba Jamaica Trinidad and Tobago Three nations to progress

Central American Zone group stage Bradenton, Florida, USA – 27-31 August Costa Rica El Salvador Nicaragua Panama Two nations to progress

CONCACAF Women’s Championship Cary, Edinburg and Frisco, USA – 4-17 October Seeded nations – USA, Canada, Mexico Top three qualify automatically for France 2019