When Jamaica knocked out soccer superpower Brazil from the Women’s World Cup last week, it wasn’t even 7am in Kingston.
But the early hour was not enough to dampen the celebrations as the side – ranked 43rd in the world – became the first English-speaking Caribbean country to qualify for the knockout stages.
Now, as the Reggae Girlz prepare to take on Colombia in their first-ever knockout stage match, football fans on the island are hoping the team – which has already overcome underfunding, the indifference and sexual abuse scandals – can keep pace. momentum, both on and off the field.
Iyana Campbell, 18, from Spanish Town, said the team’s progress made her “even prouder to be Jamaican”.
Campbell, who studies at Lamar Community College in Colorado, said the success of Reggae Girlz was an inspiration to future Jamaican footballers like her.
“Knowing that the Girlz had to come out and show up and they did just that, it now makes me want to keep doing the things I’m doing now to be like them or even better in the future.”
Lucille Hamilton, mother of striker Trudi Carter, who provided the assist in Jamaica’s 1-0 first-round win over Panama, said she woke as early as 4 a.m. to watch the games .
Positioning the television outside, family and neighbors gathered in a festive atmosphere to cheer on the team.
Hamilton said Carter, 28, had been passionate about football since the age of seven, going along with boys in the gritty communities of Jones Town and Trench Town.
“Even when she started playing at Jones Town, she came to tell me that a friend of hers was selling football boots and she saved her lunch money to buy her first boots,” Hamilton recalled.
Jamaica is now the only team from the North, Central American and Caribbean Football Confederation to participate in the World Cup.
The national holiday is as justified as it is unexpected.
After all, this is a team that was disbanded in 2010 (along with the Women’s Olympic Program) due to a lack of funding. The team was resurrected with the support of Cedella Marley, daughter of the late Bob Marley, but like most women’s sports on the island, it suffers from chronic underinvestment.
Meanwhile, coach Hubert Busby was suspended indefinitely in November 2021 after allegations emerged that he solicited sex from a footballer at Canadian club Vancouver Whitecaps a decade earlier. (Busby denies the allegations.) His replacement Vinimore Blaine was ousted in a team mutiny after players expressed dissatisfaction with his leadership.
“We suffer from a lack of funding and we have a gender bias when it comes to sports sponsorship in this country,” said Charles Edwards, who coached the national team from 2007 to 2010.
“It’s very difficult here for us. Teams are underpaid. We don’t have entrance receipts because we have to leave the doors open just for people to come in and watch the games,” Edwards said.