Saturday, February 24, 2018

Jamaica extends net to recruit women footballers


KEY PLAYER: Former University of West Florida star, Jamaican Shakira Duncan, left, in action.

Mark Fraser

Jamaica will be looking to players born as far as England and with Jamaican heritage to improve their squad for the upcoming inagural 2014 Women Caribbean Cup which takes place from August 19-26 in Trinidad and Tobago.

Jamaica's goal, like that of all Caribbean teams, is to qualify for the 2015 Canada FIFA World Cup, by capitalising on the expansion of the World Cup from 16 to 24 teams, and securing one of the qualifying spots.

Like Jamaica, Bermuda have also brought in several North American-born players, while Antigua & Barbuda have recruited USA under-17 women national team coach.

The Women Caribbean Cup will crown a champion and also qualify four teams to the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship in the US. A record 31 nations from across the region have indicated interest in participating in the preliminary qualifying process, from which eight teams will emerge to play in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship 2014, to be played in the US in the fall of 2014.

From there, the top three qualifiers from the North, Central America and Caribbean region automatically qualify for next year's World Cup in Canada, while the four semi-finalists earn a playoff with a South American rival for another World Cup berth.

“We are going to do a lot of strength work because we need to be stronger,” Jamaica head coach Merron Gordon said after his team booked a spot to the T&T tournament. “We have players as far as England wanting to come and try out for the national team. As long as we see those players and make our selection, we will be a very strong team coming into Trinidad.”

Last week, the Reggae Girlz topped Group V in the opening round of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women’s Caribbean Cup, the region’s championship for national teams that is doubling as a qualifying competition for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The Jamaicans defeated St Lucia (14-0) and the Dominican Republic (7-0) to secure a place in final round. The Reggae Girlz also found inspiration from Cedella Marley, daughter of reggae music icon Bob Marley. Marley’s encouragement is being credited as one of the reasons for the recent success of the Jamaicans.

“The girls love Cedella a lot,” Jamaica head coach Gordon told “Cedella is everything to us, a mother, role model, ambassador and sponsor. She is working very hard and giving back to Jamaica.”

Gordon was pleased with the team’s offensive output, but is committed to making further enhancements over the next two months. “We are potent in attack, but there is room for improvement,” he expressed. “We didn’t miss many chances and the girls were focused in the Dominican Republic.”

Leading Jamaica was former University of West Florida star Shakira Duncan, who scored eight goals in the two matches. The striker’s success came as no surprise to Gordon. “Shakira is a very talented kid,” said the manager. “She is awesome and she will be a better player coming into the final round.”

Jamaica is slated to face Bermuda, Haiti and Puerto Rico in Group A of the CFU competition, while host Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts & Nevis, Antigua and Bermuda and Martinique fill the other group. The top two in each group advance to the CONCACAF round.