Recently, on Sunday October 24th, Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz football team faced off against Costa Rica at the DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Though small, the crowd of fans in attendance were very animated and vocal throughout the 90-minute match. The contest was an international friendly and, as such, also served as part of the team’s preparation for the World Cup Qualifiers that will start in February 2022. Moreover, the match launched Cedella Marley’s ‘Football is Freedom’ Initiative—which aims to foster the development and growth of women’s football not only throughout Caribbean and Latin American countries, but also in those communities in the USA. Presently in her seventh year in the capacity as Global Ambassador for Jamaica’s Women’s Football Program, Cedella Marley is also CEO of the Bob Marley Group of companies. What’s more, with Cedella in that role the Reggae Girlz made history and captivated reggae and football fans the world over when they became the first Caribbean women’s squad to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup (France 2019).
Cedella’s ‘Football is Freedom’ Initiative will make the necessary tools and resources available to achieve its three-pronged mission. That is, # 1 – at the grass-roots level, provide support to the development of women’s football in the region through funding existing football programs and academies in the islands as well in diaspora areas in the USA and Canada; # 2 – provide support to the growth and development of national teams through the staging of yearly exhibition matches and mini-tournaments in order to provide quality training experiences, as well as to raise funds for the women’s programs and federations that participate; and # 3 – make investments in the holistic wellness of players through the funding of scholarships and programs aimed at assisting players with developing and enhancing the skillsets and tools they can use to succeed once their playing careers are over.
Ranked 51st in the world, the Reggae Girlz certainly entertained in their play against 36th-ranked Costa Rica by executing a fast-paced and free-flowing game which, naturally, created several exciting scoring chances. However, as all those in attendance might agree Costa Rica’s goaltender, Daniela Solera, was quite impressive in her own right. Solera made numerous key saves to keep the Reggae Girlz scoreless, including an acrobatic diving maneuver to deflect a solid shot launched by Cheyna Matthews toward the upper-right goal corned that appeared destined for the back of the net. At that, ‘oohs and ahhs’ were loudly heard in the crowd of Reggae Girlz fans, who were surprised that the shot was not a goal. Other notable Reggae Girlz scoring chances that were blocked by Solera cam from team captain, Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw, Atlanta Primus, and Drew Spence.
All told, the Reggae Girlz appeared dominant throughout the contest and oftentimes even physically overpowering against the diminutive but stout Costa Rican backline—which deserves a lot of credit for repelling attacks from the Reggae Girlz. Needless to say, Jamaican culture was palpable both in and outside of the stadium. Food trucks from well-established Jamaican restaurants were parked just outside the entry gates while reggae music bellowed from speakers mounted on the trucks themselves. What’s more, Cedella’s son Skip Marley, delivered a great performance at halftime along with female dancehall artist, Tifa.All photos by Nick Ford (except where noted otherwise), who lives and works in South Florida.