Prior to the resurgence of the Reggae Girlz, there had been no Khadija “Bunny” Shaw or Allyson Swaby who could inspire a generation and provide the representation needed for girls to dream. Without seeing someone that looks like you or walks through similar paths of life, there is no belief it is possible to wear a Jamaican national team jersey at a FIFA Women’s World Cup.
For many years, Soccer had been considered a male sport. Little girls around the island could not find any well-funded and organized clubs dedicated to coaching the beautiful game we all know and love. This struggle still continues today. When we look at the current roster for the Reggae Girlz, 18 out of 23 players were born or raised outside of Jamaica. If anything this shows the emphasis on lack of support given to the Jamaican Football Federation. The lack of resources prevents the growth of talented players into senior international-level athletes. Grassroot programs and opportunities to expose young girls to the sport do not exist. There is no financial investment given to develop after-school sports programs or host identification camps for the youth national teams. Not only do the players miss out on developing technical skills, but they also miss out on creating a culture consistent amongst all playing levels. There is no doubt why parents hesitate to send their daughters outside to play. There is no belief women’s soccer can grant a sustainable lifestyle in the future. There is no belief a Jamaican girl can live her dream.
A heavy truth the Reggae Girlz carry with them each time they step out onto the field to represent the crest. It is what makes this tournament so important and personal. They are a team on a mission to not only redefine girls' soccer but also women's sports in Jamaica. Continuing to progress throughout the World Cup is a necessity to initiate a change in the way Jamaica views the Reggae Girlz. To win the World Cup, it would mean even more than perceptual changes. It would grant financial support, media coverage, and every tool needed to build a system that inspires young girls to get outside and play. A country so commonly known for its Track and Field will have a new sport to have high expectations.
Now competing in the Round of 16, winning it all does not seem so far away. As the first Caribbean island to progress into the knockout round, the Reggae Girlz will have no fear of competing against Colombia. Fans back home will be tuned into the game to watch a strong defensive backline shut out a very electric Colombian offense. Jamaican goalkeeper, Rebecca Spencer will be the player to watch already leaving a strong impression on the world in only her first major international tournament. Throughout the group stage, Spencer had been a solid brick wall maintaining a clean sheet in each game.
However, as strong as a backline may be it takes goals to win a game. All eyes will be on Jamaica’s leading goalscorer Khadija Shaw and young veteran Jody Brown. Together these two players have the potential to continue making history for Jamaica.
What is even more exciting is the depth in attacking talent, which has arguably been one of the greatest differences between this year's roster and the 2019 roster. The likes of Drew Spence and Vyan Sampson bring a European style of play to complement the midfield and maintain possession unlike ever before. It is encouraging for fans to witness. Each player brings something unique to the field leaving cohesiveness and communication amongst the players the lasting piece needed to succeed. Perhaps their magic displayed on the world’s stage will be the pivotal moment in a young girl’s life. Only time will tell when this game becomes a reference for the future star of Jamaica.