Makeshift Reggae Girlz squad set to face Panama in Gold Cup Qualifying fixture on Wednesday

By Sports Desk October 24, 2023
Reggae Girlz Head Coach Xavier Gilbert. Reggae Girlz Head Coach Xavier Gilbert.

A makeshift Senior Reggae Girlz squad will have it all to do when they take on Panama in a Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup Qualification fixture on Wednesday.

The players who were responsible for leading Jamaica to a historic Round of 16 appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup earlier this year are not part of the group in Panama after withdrawing from selection to protest what they describe as “constant mistreatment” from the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).

Things have been made even more difficult for the travelling squad after a late change in venue due to ongoing protests in Panama City.

New Head Coach of the team, Xavier Gilbert, said the protests have also led to some logistical issues for the Girlz, including a lack of training time.

“We’ve been here from Sunday. We were in another city where there was a protest so it affected us. I must give credit to CONCACAF and the local organizing committee for responding the way they did. They tried to get us out the same time we landed on Sunday which is three hours away from the airport so it was difficult. Then yesterday in the morning we couldn’t move because roads were blocked,” he said.

“The good thing is that it didn’t affect any of the players and for that I must commend the local organizing committee once again. Once they picked up the players. They moved them straight to this hotel here so that was good. They didn’t encounter any delays,” he added before noting the challenge of the late venue change and an inability to train.

“It is challenging because now the venue has changed, the training venue has changed and the game venue changed and we’re still uncertain on some logistics as it relates to time,” he said.

“We’re going to have to do something. It’s not ideal in terms of what we want to do and to have everybody who we want involved but a lot of the players, especially when we travel at youth level, we find ourselves in similar situations so some of them are used to this. We only have a one-hour session before our first game and that includes a warm-up so we just have to try and get in and get out. We’re going to have to do a lot of mental and tactical preparation as it relates to how we want to approach the game,” he added.

In an interview on Tuesday, Gilbert said that about 15 members of the squad had already arrived in Panama with a few more coming.

He added that the absence of 18-year-old Shaniel Buckley, who is currently with the Jamaica team at the Pan Am Games in Chile, will be a big loss for the Girlz.

“We have about 15 players here so far. We’re expecting another couple and then we’ll take it from there. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that we’ll have Shaneil Buckley. She’s at the Pan Am Games and she hasn’t left yet so that’s a huge blow for us,” Gilbert said.

With regular skipper Khadija Shaw among those unavailable, Gilbert says midfielder Chinyelu Asher will Captain the team on Wednesday.

“Chinyelu Asher based on her experience playing at the international level and playing at the World Cup. She’s the most experienced and capped player here and it’s fitting for her to be the leader,” Gilbert said.

The 30-year-old Asher has scored six goals in 29 caps for the Reggae Girlz since her debut in 2015.

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