For many years, Jamaica’s women’s soccer team looked like it might never return. After disbanding in 2008, the team failed to find funding and appeared unlikely to return to the Olympics or appear in a World Cup any time soon.
But through a confluence of events, the women’s team resurrected in 2014 thanks in part to involvement from one of the country’s most prominent families: the Marleys.
As detailed in a profile for ESPN the Magazine as well as the Washington Post, Cedella Marley, daughter of late singer Bob Marley, has helped lead the Jamaican women’s team — nicknamed “Reggae Girlz" — to its first ever World Cup in 2019.
The Marleys’ relationship with soccer
Although universally known for his music, Bob Marley is also known for his love of soccer. Quite the quotable man, Marley had plenty to share about it.
“Football is freedom, a whole universe.”
And although he only got to share 13 years with his second-oldest daughter, Cedella, his impression on her and his love for the sport was large enough to touch a nation.
Cedella, who leads her father's label Tuff Gong, saw a flier from her son's soccer coach in 2014 that asked for donations to help bring back the women's soccer team. Marley was miffed when she realized how little support the women’s team received and decided to help back it herself.
With her brothers, Stephen and Damian, she helped record a song “Strike Hard” to raise money for the team. And along with former soccer player Hue Menzies, who worked as an unpaid coach, Cedella helped take the team off the ground.
“Aside from my own family’s personal love for the game, I was raised to believe everyone has their right to fulfill their destiny and pursue their dreams, especially when you have a God-given talent,” Cedella Marley said, via the Washington Post. “It was really unfair the girls were being treated this way just because some people believe soccer is a men’s-only game.”
Looking ahead for Jamaican soccer
There were humble beginnings for the new program to be sure. With small budgets initially, the Reggae Girlz had to find ways to win games despite poor nutrition from team meals and a lack of hydration.
But with big talent from back home — and excellent recruiting for American players with eligibility for the Jamaican team — the Reggae Girlz were able to reach the CONCACAF Women's Championship in 2014. Postgame FaceTime sessions with Marley couldn’t have hurt, either.
Beyond the quick turnaround, Marley is excited for what a revitalized Jamaican national team can mean on a personal level to the players themselves.
“This program is about more than football,” Marley said, via the Washington Post. “It has parlayed their athletic talents into scholarships that can open doors to good careers.”
With a third-place win in the 2018 CONCACAF Women's Championship, Jamaica qualified for its first World Cup in 2019, which is more than anyone could have hoped. They’re not expected to win any games against their initial draw of Australia, Brazil and Italy, but just getting there is accomplishment enough.
“The Marleys, when they pick something, it's supposed to work,” Menzies said, via ESPNW. “That's just our culture. If the Marleys are doing something, it's real.”
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