Bittersweet: young prospect Solai Washington overjoyed by Reggae Girlz World Cup selection, but disappointed that inspirational big sis missed out

By July 01, 2023
Reggae Girlz  rising prospect Solai Washington in action recently. (Inset) Solai Washington (right) and big sister Giselle share a photo opportunity with Head coach Lorne Donaldson Reggae Girlz rising prospect Solai Washington in action recently. (Inset) Solai Washington (right) and big sister Giselle share a photo opportunity with Head coach Lorne Donaldson

At 17 years old, Reggae Girl Solai Washington will be one of the youngest players at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand later this month, a feat well worth celebrating.

But in the midst of her excitement is a hint of disappointment, as Washington's older and more experienced sister Giselle, did not make the cut in Lorne Donaldson's final 23-player squad.

Such is the bond between the American-born siblings, who earn their Jamaican stripes through their mother, that young Washington readily admits it is the continued guidance and encouragement from her sister, that has propelled her to smile in the face of adversities and push past mental blocks that may deter her from playing the game she fell in love with at the tender age of three.

The elder Washington, who was instrumental in Jamaica's historic qualification to the global showpiece in France in 2019, also missed that tournament due to injury.

"My sister is disappointed because she loves Jamaica and the Reggae Girlz, but she is also extremely excited for me and has been one of my biggest supporters throughout my soccer journey. She is very proud of me and will be cheering me on while I am in Australia. I could not have done it without her and even though she won’t be on the field with me her presence is always there,” Washington told SportsMax.tv from her base in the United States.

"I started playing soccer [football] mainly because I was inspired from watching and playing soccer with Giselle. I cannot say enough about how awesome it has been to follow the example that she has provided, not just in soccer but also life. She is such an amazing player and person, the perfect role model.

"I've learnt so many lessons from her that they are too many to list, but from a young age she helped me improve technically on the ball and to understand the strategic concepts of the game. But I would have to say the biggest lesson she taught me is to work hard and never quit," she continued.

Washington earned her senior Reggae Girlz debut at the Cup of Nations tournament in Australia earlier this year, not merely for the sake of a trial but because she possesses great ability and gives high-quality effort — both on and off the ball — that bely her age and inexperience.

It is that demonstration that she was ready for a step up from youth football that impressed Donaldson and his assistants Xavier Gilbert, Ak Lakhani and Laura Thomas, and they duly obliged.

Since the Cup of Nations outing in Australia, where she rubbed shoulders with some of the women's game top players from the host nation, as well as Spain and the Czech Republic, Washington confidence and stock increased rapidly to the point where she is now motivated to become a potent performer in the Reggae Girlz setup, as her appetite for success is clear for all to see.

"To be honest the feeling is still indescribable. I am both proud of myself and remain hungry and eager to continue to get better and show the world what I know I can do on its biggest stage," she declared.

"Initially it was intimidating coming into such a close knit and professional team and this has all been a very new experience to me so it was a bit difficult at times, but it also inspired me to work even harder to become the best footballer I can be. But since I've settled in, it has been nothing but a joy and an honour to share the field with such talented players," Washington noted.

Aside from mouth-watering talent, Washington still in high school at Chamblee, has an unflinching desire to make her mark at the July 20 to August 20 World Cup, where the Reggae Girlz will contest Group F alongside France, Brazil and Panama. 

Given her speed, fearlessness and dribbling which makes her a dangerous impact player and a thrilling prospect for the Reggae Girlz, the World Cup represents Washington's moment and time to shine, and if she gets the opportunity to do so, many will remember her name.

"This is huge for me and my career, this is what you dream of when you get involved in the game, playing with and against some of the best players in the biggest games on the biggest stage, so I'm really happy," the bubbly attacker shared.

"I will be heading into my senior year of high school after this summer, so I am still very young and basically just getting started. So, I am excited for my future and what is to come because there is some way to go before I hit the tip of the iceberg where accomplishments are concerned so I am always staying hungry and, more importantly, humble," she said.

Having already assisted Chamblee High School to a State Championship, becoming the first DeKalb County School District girls football team to achieve the feat, Washington was also named Georgia High School Soccer Player of the Year for her 42 goals complemented by nine assists.

She was also instrumental in guiding her Concorde Fire team to the ECNL Under-19 National Championship last year, a title which she is currently hoping they will retain.

This tournament, the tall but nippy player believes will assist in maintaining her match fitness and, by extension, improve her craft before the big dance.

"I have had to make a quick turn around since the Jamaica camp and am now in San Diego for ECNL Nationals. I am playing games with my club team and competing for another National Championship, hoping to get it back-to-back. For sure, this will help with both my physical and mental preparation leading up to the World Cup," Washington ended.

Sherdon Cowan

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

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