Jamaica’s senior soccer team The Reggae Girlz became the island’s (and the internet’s) darlings when they made history qualifying for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019. In a tense battle, they finally defeated Panama 4-2 on penalties, snatching the final CONCACAF spot. Their victory felt even more sweet, as Jamaica hasn’t qualified for the World Cup since 1998, when the men’s team qualified. The team will make their first World Cup appearance next year in France next July, which gives new fans a few months to learn all about these fantastic players. So we’ve rounded up some fascinating facts you need to know about this landmark team.
They Are The First Caribbean Team To Qualify
The Jamaican women’s squad is the first Caribbean team to qualify for the senior FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament. At this year’s CONCACAF Women’s Championship, 23 Caribbean teams vied for the historic spot, with Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago offering stiff competition. In the end, Jamaica came out on top, and will head to the tournament along with Canada and the U.S.A.
The Players Honed Their Skills Against The Champions
The Reggae Girlz pulled from players across the Jamaican Diaspora for this historic squad, with several American-born players. Defenders Dominique Bond-Flasza and Toriana Patterson, and goalies Sydney Schneider and Nicole McClure all hail from America. So too do sisters Allyson and Chantelle Swaby, plus midfielders Chinyelu Asher, Marlo Sweatman and Lauren Silver. Many also play for American clubs, like Miami Surge F.C’s Christina Chang. And many native Jamaican players have cut their teeth playing college soccer in America, like captain Konya Plummer for the UCF Knights and Deneisha Blackwood for the West Florida Argonauts. This strong connection could make all the difference in the tournament, with a team full of players well acquainted with the American style. Such knowledge comes in handy if you want to defeat the reigning champions.
Striker Khadija Shaw Is A Secret Weapon
Reggae Girlz Striker Khadija Shaw was a force to be reckoned with throughout the CONCACAF qualifiers. She became the lead scorer of the tournament with 19 goals, breaking previous records. The historic win has also been a long time coming for the player, who has been representing Jamaica since she was 14 years old on the under-15, under-17 and under-20 teams. When she’s not rocking the Reggae Girlz uniform, Shaw also plays for the University of Tennessee, where she’s been named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week twice this season.
The Marley Family Are Big Supporters
In 2010, the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) cut funding for the women’s senior team, putting the Reggae Girlz on an indefinite hiatus. This might have still been the case if it wasn’t for the unwavering support of Cedella Marley, Bob Marley’s daughter. Sponsoring the team through the Bob Marley Foundation, she helped relaunched the team in 2014. And she has become their biggest cheerleader ever since, serving as the team’s ambassador. So you can imagine Cedella had a hard time watching the tense final. “There were a couple of moments when I had to leave the room [watching the match] because I was going light-headed,” she told BBC. “I went outside and started to meditate. By the time the last penalty went in we were all on the floor.”
They Sing The Jamaican National Anthem Like Nobody Else
The Reggae Girlz showed some serious patriotic enthusiasm after their historic win in this charming viral video. in the video, the whole team gathered in the locker rooms for an dancehall-laced round of the Jamaican National Anthem, dancing their hearts out. Here’s hoping they get a chance to sing again, this time at the Women’s World Cup Finals in France.