How Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella saved the ‘Reggae Girlz’
Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella, ‘resurrected’ the Jamaican women’s team when they had all but disappeared.
The Jamaican women’s soccer team (The Reggae Girlz) will play their second consecutive World Cup next summer after debuting at France 2019. Despite failing to record a win, the team left the competition with their heads held high after becoming the first Caribbean nation to play at a Women’s World Cup knowing that the road to get there was far from easy.
Much of their success and promising future is thanks to Cedella Marley, daughter of the legendary Jamaican musician, Bob Marley, who ‘resurrected’ the Reggae Girlz just when it seemed that when women’s football on the Caribbean island was about to disappear.
In 2008, due to a lack of funding, the Jamaica women’s team were forced to withdraw from a series of international tournaments. The players started a campaign and this caught the attention of Marley (daughter of Bob Marley), a fervent defender of women’s rights who learned of the team’s predicament through her son.
Speaking to ESPN, Marley recalled how she became involved: “My son Skip came home with a flyer that was appealing for help to support the Reggae Girlz. I made a few calls to see what was happening and when they told me the team was about to be dissolved as they had no financial support to be able to play. It wasn’t because they weren’t good, it’s that they didn’t have funds. For the boys, yes, but not for the girls,” said the head of the Marley Estate.
“The girls had no kit so it was not for lack of talent, as has been shown later. They didn’t have sports bras, nutrition...they asked me to send them granola bars, I got really upset,” she explained.
Cedella embarked on a personal crusade to ensure that the girls could represent their country and enjoy their passion which was playing football. “It cost me money personally. In 2014 there were the CONCACAF games so I traveled with the team to find out first-hand what the situation was. That’s when I knew what I had to do”, she declared.
The 55-year-old funded the side until they were self-sufficient and in 2014 was appointed an ambassador for the team having previously launched the crowdfunding campaign “Strike Hard for the Reggae Girlz!”. They managed to raise $50,000 to prepare for the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship tournament which took place in the USA. Despite failing to secure a place at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, the foundations were in place and this culminated with 2018 qualification for the France 2019 tournament after beating Canada on penalties to advance.
“I never want to see a young girl who wants to achieve her dream not do it because of her sex,” said Cedella Marley emphatically.
Reggae Girlz deliver positive vibrations
Jamaica are set to face Spain this week as part of the four team Cup of Nations in Australia with games against ‘La Roja’, the Czech Republic and Australia which will serve as a premilmary taster for the forthcoming World Cup which kicks off in July.
Despite being placed in a tricky World Cup 2023 Group F with Brazil, France and an, as yet unknown qualifier, the fact that the Reggae Girlz exist and continue to succeed is largely down to the tenacity and dedication of one woman.