Jamaica knocked Brazil out of the Women’s World Cup on Wednesday, holding their rivals to a 0-0 draw in international soccer’s biggest competition. The tie sees the Jamaican women advance to the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time ever, and it brought jubilant celebrations from Jamaicans at home and around the world.
It’s already a remarkable success story for the Reggae Girlz — as the team is known — as the team has been disbanded by the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) twice over the last 15 years and had to fight tooth and nail for funding to keep playing.
In 2008, the JFF ceased funding the women’s team, claiming it was impossible given its finances, despite continuing to fund the men’s side.
In 2014, reggae icon and soccer lover Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella Marley stepped in to help finance the team, producing a single to raise money for the squad and providing sponsorship through the family’s Bob Marley Foundation.
Despite the boost, the team was again disbanded in 2016 by the national federation.
Marley called for change within the JFF and continued to fund the team through the family’s foundation and, in 2019, the Reggae Girlz qualified for their first Women’s World Cup. They failed to win a single game and left in the group stages of the tournament, however.
Even during the buildup to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, the team continued to fight for financial backing from the Jamaican federation. The JFF said it was struggling to fund the women’s team and called on the country’s government to help out.
But help came once again from elsewhere. One of the player’s mothers set up a crowdfunding page, called “Reggae Girlz Rise Up,” to help cover their costs, and it brought in close to $50,000.
Just days before the 2023 Women’s World Cup began on the other side of the globe in New Zealand and Australia, the Reggae Girls put out a statement voicing their “utmost disappointment” with the JFF over the organization’s “subpar” support for their team.
The players called for change and laid out details of what they claim is rampant disorganization within the federation.
When the final whistle blew at the end of their Wednesday match in Melbourne, Jamaican midfielder Drew Spence could be seen shouting, “We told you! We told you!” into the crowd.
Coach Lorne Donaldson, speaking after the game, said the team was “doing this for the country, and the country should be proud.”