Jamaica’s national women’s soccer team, the Reggae Girlz, made history at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup on Wednesday, advancing to the knockout round with a 0-0 draw against Brazil, booting the powerhouse team from the tournament.
It’s the first time a Caribbean nation has advanced to Round 16 in the Women’s World Cup, according to FIFA.
Reggae Girlz head coach Lorne Donaldson said in a post-game interview that qualifying for Round 16 was “one of the best feelings” he’s had in his life.
“Just to see these girls, and to see a country like Jamaica, be able to do this, it’s unbelievable to just watch it while I’m alive right here standing,” he said.
He later added, “I thank you girls to do this for the country, and the country should be proud.”
The Reggae Girlz made their 2023 World Cup debut in a game against France on July 23, which ended in a 0-0 draw. The team then defeated Panama one week later, 1-0. Their next game is slated for Aug. 8.
The Jamaican national women’s soccer team has made headlines for its financial struggles in recent months.
In June, the team publicized its “utmost disappointment” with the Jamaica Football Federation in a letter shared on social media.
The letter said that the federation had provided the players with “subpar” planning, transportation, accommodations, compensation and nutrition, among other grievances.
“We have also showed up repeatedly without receiving contractually agreed upon compensation,” the letter said, adding that “extreme disorganization of camp logistics” caused them to miss several FIFA friendly matches ahead of the World Cup.
Rebecca Spencer, the Reggae Girlz goalkeeper, seemingly referenced the team’s issues with JFF in a post-game interview on Wednesday.
When asked what makes the team so strong together, Spencer replied: “Like I said, the ones up above us, they don’t believe in us, and they always put us through things that we don’t want to go through.”
“And that just gives us more fire in our bellies to go out there and do well,” she said.
Cedella Marley, the daughter of Bob Marley and Rita Marley, has spoken out about the lack of funding, support and widespread recognition for the Reggae Girlz over the years. In 2014, she became an ambassador for the team, which had remained dormant for years due to a lack of funding.
In 2019, the Reggae Girlz made their World Cup debut after becoming the first Caribbean national team to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.