Point proven: Spencer, manager and former coaches hope Reggae Girlz programme receives more attention, respect following historic exploits

By August 04, 2023
(Top from left) Reggae Girlz manager Crystal Walters and former coaches Andrew Price and Hue Menzies. Below is Reggae Girlz goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer. (Top from left) Reggae Girlz manager Crystal Walters and former coaches Andrew Price and Hue Menzies. Below is Reggae Girlz goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer.

The Reggae Girlz remarkable and historic run on their second-consecutive Fifa Women’s World Cup appearance, may come as a surprise to many, but those close to the happenings believe it was always on the cards given the players and the coaching staff’s unflinching desire to succeed.

With another campaign being marred by talks of age-old issues of little or no practice games and inadequate preparation, as well as limited funding, ahead of the showpiece currently ongoing in Australia and New Zealand, the collective chorus is one of great optimism that the Reggae Girlz will now be taken seriously and will receive the necessary support and respect they deserve.

Former Head coach Hue Menzies, who was at the helm when the Reggae Girlz first qualified for the France 2019 World Cup, is among those singing praises about the current achievements. But he was also quick to point out that much more work needs to be done, as the country’s women’s football programme is still some ways off from its full potential.

The 43rd-ranked Girlz, who on World Cup debut lost all three games to Brazil, Italy and Australia in 2019, have displayed marked improvements on this occasion in holding top-ranked France and Brazil to goalless stalemates and secure their first ever World Cup win in a 1-0 scoreline over Panama on their way to the knockout stages.

Menzies, believes these accomplishments was another show of the players' resilience and strength of character, as they were given very little chance against their more illustrious opponents.

"I believe this was another statement of the players' dedication and commitment and determination to make Jamaica proud. They have again commanded people's attention with this achievement but again, the programme requires more funding if they are to get much closer to these top teams.

"But I am so proud for what the programme continues to achieve, and all the credit must go to Cedella [Marley], who brought us all together with the vision to build this programme. I think we have earned some respect across the world after these performances, but the most important thing is that we earn the respect from our own people of Jamaica," Menzies told Sportsmax.tv in a recent interview.

“Culturally we don’t support female football or female sports on a whole. Corporate Jamaica has to understand how significant it would be for them to collaborate with the Girlz, they can create an impactful platform to help young females to dream big.

“Not only that, but brand recognition through these young ladies, will benefit for a lifetime. So, we have won this World Cup battle but have to keep going to win the war where the holistic development of the programme is concerned,” he added.

Reggae Girlz manager Crystal Walters, who is one of the youngest present at the global showpiece, echoed similar sentiments, as she noted that the hard work and sacrifice made by the players and backroom staff, will never truly be understood by those standing on the outside looking in.

“From the very start of this journey the ladies have been my first priority, watching them rewrite history each time they step on the field, and just being a part of this journey is truly an amazing feeling. what amazes me the most is how well this team stick together with so many distractions, but these ladies thrive on having their backs against the wall and are our living legends,” Walters said from the team’s base in Australia.

For Walters, the onus is now on the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), the Government and also corporate partners to ensure they build on the Girlz achievements going forward.

“Our focus as a nation needs to be redirected to our grassroots programme, providing proper sporting facilities, as well as adequate sponsorship. It takes a lot to care, but this team has gone beyond greatness, and we need to build on the history that these amazing ladies and staff have once again created.

“It is indeed a fresh testament of what the country can achieve with more substantial backing, as the Girlz accomplishments will provide opportunities and open many doors for these and our other players. It is football for all and we need to use this opportunity to ensure we keep developing,” Walters opined.

Andrew Price, who along with current Head coach Lorne Donaldson, were assistants to Menzies during the 2019 success, said the Girlz — backed by a committed and resolute coaching staff — again forged ahead despite the enormous disparity in rankings, history, funding and support when compared to opponents like France and Brazil.

In fact, even Italy, who the Girlz lost to in 2019, failed to progress from their group on this occasion.

“The performance in Australia has been phenomenal. The Girlz continue to secure historic achievements, almost proving that merely qualifying for their second-consecutive FIFA Women's World Cup wasn't enough.

“These Girlz like to dream big. They went to Australia with a plan and driven by the technical staff, they bought into the plan.  They believed that they had the mental capacity to traverse the group and they did because they believed in each other,” Price noted.

“I told people who would listen, that this team is four years older, four years wiser and the experience they got from 2019 would serve them well. They played each team on their merit and took one game at time. The focus was to get out of the group, and they have accomplished that by showing great fight resilience. Keep the fire burning Reggae Girlz,” the veteran tactician shared.

The Reggae Girlz will next face 25th-ranked Colombia in Round of 16 action in Adelaide, on Tuesday and standout goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer declared that they are ready to once again prove their doubters wrong.

“We were hugely underestimated, obviously with the noise going on outside of us playing and the lack of matches that we had leading into the tournament, I don’t think anyone took us seriously,” the outspoken Spencer opined.

“But as a group, both players and staff, we know we are resilient we had a point to prove and for months we have been saying it, we are getting out of this group, and we have proven just that. I am just proud of everyone for sticking together and getting it done and now we want to keep going,” the Tottenham Hotspur shot-stopper stated.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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