Jamaica’s national women’s netball and football teams, the Sunshine Girls and the Reggae Girlz, made impressive appearances on the world athletic stage, defying expectations and displaying the resilience and pride emblematic of Jamaicans in the face of significant challenges.
Sunshine Girls Grateful for Bronze Medal
While Jamaica’s national netball team did not win the gold medal they hoped for at the 2023 Netball World Cup (NWC) in Cape Town, South Africa, their assistant coach, Shawn Murdock, said they were happy to win the bronze medal. They overcame errors committed in their earlier game against Australia and defeated the 2019 champion New Zealand team to take third place, the Sunshine Girls ended a 16-year medal drought for Jamaica at NWC. In what was described by Coach Murdock as a “very tough game” for third place, the Sunshine Girls were eager to win a medal on the 61st anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence. They brought the victory home through their dedication, the excellent shooting from team captain Jhaniele Fowler, who scored 43 of 44 goal attempts, and Shanice Beckford, who made nine goals from 11 attempts.
Reggae Girlz Reach Final 16 at FIFA Women’s World Cup
Jamaica’s national football team defied the odds and overcame funding challenges to reach the final 16 teams in contention for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. When Jamaica. There were celebrations throughout Jamaica when the Reggae Girlz, ranked 43 in the world, took out Brazil, one of the top international teams ranked at Number 4, at the World Cup to reach the final 16. With their win, Jamaica became the first English-speaking Caribbean country to make it to the tournament’s knock-out round. While they lost their match against Colombia 1-0, the respect and enthusiasm for the team on the global stage was not diminished.
“Resurrected” Reggae Girlz Shine in 2023 Despite Chronic Underfunding
The Reggae Girlz managed to reach the World Cup despite a history of serious funding problems. The national women’s team was disbanded in 2010 due to a lack of funding and was only brought back into competition through the support of Cedella Marley, the daughter of Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley. The team continued to suffer from a chronic lack of investment and financial support, however, like most other women’s sports in Jamaica. Its coach, Hubert Busby, was suspended in 2021, and the team did not approve of the leadership of his replacement. According to Charles Edwards, the team’s coach from 2007 to 2010, noted a gender bias in sponsorship exists in Jamaica that makes it difficult for women’s sports there. Teams are underpaid, and it is a challenge to attract people to watch women’s games, which reduces financial support derived from gate receipts.
Member of Jamaican Parliament Calls for Equity for Reggae Girlz
Lisa Hanna, Member of Parliament for Saint Ann South East who served as Jamaica’s Minister of Youth and Culture from 2012–2016, recognized the history-making achievement of the Reggae Girlz in qualifying for the round of 16 at the World Cup and praised the team’s “grit, resilience, and courage. She also thanked Cedella Marley for her support and then contrasted the journey of the women’s team to the FIFA World Cup and that of the Reggae Boyz national men’s team when it qualified for the World Cup in 1997. She noted how a public holiday was declared when the Boyz qualified and how the president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), Horace Burrell, asked the Prime Minister for help in getting a coach from Brazil to help develop the team, which he did. The Prime Minister also led a delegation from the government to attend the matches the Reggae Boyz played at the World Cup in a show of national support. Hanna questioned why there had not been a similar treatment for the women’s team, which not only qualified but went further in the tournament.
Girlz Write Open Letter Describing “Subpar” Support from JFF
The Reggae Girlz noted their disappointment in the JFF for the lack of support they received during their preparations for the World Cup, claiming that the organization did not meet contracted compensation terms. Sandra Phillips-Brower, the mother of Reggae Girl Havana Solaun, started a GoFundMe campaign in April 2023 because the team did not receive sufficient resources from the JFF to participate in the World Cup. Her campaign, Reggae Girlz Rise Up, raised US$50,000 to help with the costs associated with playing in the international tournament, including training camp, food, and travel. In spite of the challenging financial situation, however, the Reggae Girlz persevered and succeeded in making their mark at the prestigious tournament.
Photo – Jamaica Netball