Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz 4-1 victory over Antigua and Barbuda last Tuesday did more than advance them to the final round of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers, but the win also resuscitated the women’s program.
The future of the Jamaican women’s program is on the shoulders of the men’s team and depends on their success. The Jamaican women’s program is barely breathing due to financial constraints due to the local governing body, the Jamaica Football Federation.
The JFF suspended the entire women’s national program in 2002, after a 65 percent cut in the government subvention and later cut the senior women’s program in 2010. The Under-20 and Under-17 were the only programs to survive the cut.
Vin Blaine, the women’s national coach, said that the average citizen does not realize the effect that the senior men’s program has on local soccer.
“People don’t understand that if we don’t qualify it would’ve had far-reaching effects on the entire football (soccer) program in Jamaica,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
Elaine Walker-Brown, who is the chairman of the JFF’s Women’s Committee, agrees with Blaine.
“It means a lot because the Reggae Boyz are like the father for all the other football (soccer),” Walker-Brown said. “Sponsors don’t gravitate to the Women’s program or to the youth program. They mostly focus on the Reggae Boyz.”
When the Reggae Boyz are winning, the soccer program gets the necessary resources to come in and filter out to other programs, but the outcome is different when they do not qualify.
“If the Reggae Boyz don’t qualify, it’s like the well will be dried up, so all the other programs would have suffered and struggles to make their obligations,” Walker-Brown said.
Horace Reid, the former general secretary, told the Sunday Observer that Boyz qualification to the next round revived the national program, instead of creating a disaster.
“The fall-out would have been on several fronts as we are in a fickle environment for public support as the sport is still result-driven,” Reid explained.
The senior players for the men’s team would have been affected by not qualifying, as Reid went on to say.
“They would lose their contracts because you have to have certain caps to play in Europe; people have to understand that,” Reid said. “It does not only affect the women’s program and the men’s program – it would affect the overall program in Jamaica.”
The JFF launched the National Under-15 Girls competition in June, which was birthed from a FIFA symposium on women’s soccer held in Jamaica last year. Walker-Brown credits FIFA for getting the Jamaican women’s soccer team some highlights within the last few months.
Walker-Brown also discussed funding and sponsorship independent of the Reggae Boyz success.
“We have been,” she said. “Even Sherwin Williams, which has been there with us for over 10 years, even they have pleaded to corporate Jamaica. If people do assist they assist us with energy drink or something, but not proper funding, and the same applies to the Youth program.”
According to Blaine, the women’s age-group teams will not begin competition until 2013, which will give them adequate time to observe ways of rebooting the senior women’s program.
Blaine has already planned a meeting with members of the women’s program in order to start making sound decisions on a bright future.
“Now it has given us some hope and we can now look forward to making plans to get the program back on stream again sometime soon,” he said.