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Reggae Girlz crash out of W Gold Cup qualifiers as fingers pointed at JFF chauvinism

insideworldfootball.com 2024/2/24

November 4 – Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz have crashed out of the Concacaf W Gold Cup without even making the play-in qualifiers.

Going in to their final group qualifying match needing to beat Guatemala to move ahead of them and take second place in the group to qualify for a play-in slot to the inaugural 12-team Concacaf W Gold Cup, the makeshift Jamaican team of college and amateur players only managed a 1-1 draw.

That left them a point behind Guatemala and out of the biggest women’s national team competition ever organised by Concacaf.

It is a far cry from the country’s third place finish at the Conacaf W Championship in 2022 in Mexico and the worldwide plaudits received during their 2023 World Cup campaign this summer. The Jamaican women also only just missed out to Canada on winning a qualification place at the 2024 Olympics.

Pre-W Gold Cup qualifiers and after a 2023 World Cup that had seen the Reggae Girlz become the first Caribbean side to make it to the Round of 16 at the global finals, the Jamaicans were nailed on favourites to go through to the W Gold Cup that will see eight Concacaf teams and four invited Conmebol nations compete in February/March next year.

However, after the Jamaican federation withheld the players’ World Cup payments, refused to put in place a guaranteed national team programme, and fired coach Lorne Donovan, the whole World Cup squad said they were unavailable for selection and that they had had enough of the institutional disrespect shown by their federation and in particular Jamaican Football Federation president Michael Ricketts.

The federation subsequently said they had actioned payments to the players, but it was too little too late and Ricketts was unable to get the World Cup squad to commit to representing their country.

Not only has the whole debacle damaged Ricketts’ already flagging reputation and presidency, but it has shorn the W Gold Cup of Concacaf’s third best team and a number of world class players, including arguably the best centre forward in women’s football globally, Khadeja Shaw.

In contrast Ricketts has ensured Jamaica’s men’s team have been fully funded and for the first time qualified for the Concacaf four-team Nations League finals in 2024. The women’s team – who have forced themselves into far greater global recognition – have been left isolated, underfunded and, for all intents and purposes, discriminated out of the international game.

Ricketts and the JFF can likely expect a hard audit of their finances and budgets by Concacaf and FIFA. Their FIFA grants are contingent on running a women’s programme.

While the Jamaicans won’t be in the US come February, Mexico, Panama and Haiti will join the US and Canada as automatic qualifiers.

The play-in slots will see Nations League Group A runners up Guatemala, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica play off against Group B winners El Salvador, Guyana and Bermuda. Those matches will be played in Southern California three days before the group stages of the W Gold begins.

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