The New York Times recently ran a feature on Reggae Girlz, the first national soccer team from the Caribbean to qualify for the Women’s World Cup, happening soon (June 7 to July 7) in France.
The article, entitled The Women’s World Cup’s Other Inequality: Rich vs. Poor, reports that the coach of the Reggae Girlz has worked for free for five years, and many of the female players lack funds for the costs of being a professional athlete. The coaches have to buy them things like jackets to wear for training and other basics of the sport.
Though they lack the kind of resources that the US and French teams have, the Reggae Girls persevered, thanks largely to the support of Cedella Marley. The daughter of Reggae superstar Bob Marley, Cedella Marley is the director of Tuff Gong, the record label created by her late father. She also heads up the Bob Marley Foundation.
The path to the World Cup has been a journey of more than five years for the Reggae Girlz, with Marley providing many levels of support for the team during that time, including her own funding. Combining her creative and media resources, she also released a song called “Strike Hard” which raised awareness about the team and featured the voices of three of the Marley children, Cedella and her brothers Stephen and Damian.
An article on ESPN provided more background for how Cedella supported for the team’s resurrection:
When the federation defunded the team a second time in 2016, Cedella — unbowed — simply redoubled her efforts, pushing for a complete culture change within Jamaican women’s soccer. First, she persuaded Alessandra Lo Savio, a co-founder of the Alacran Foundation, which does arts philanthropy work in Jamaica and elsewhere, to become a major contributor. Then she identified Hue Menzies, who gave up a career in corporate finance to become a full-time soccer coach, to lead the re-formed team.
One important takeaway from Cedella Marley’s philanthropy is the way in which her support of the Reggae Girlz resulted in others becoming invested. As a result of Marley’s persistence as a supporter of women’s soccer, she increased the perceived value of the team in other’s eyes, and the team was able to garner more support. Now things are finally starting to improve:
Jamaica’s World Cup players have signed a contract with the federation that will pay them $800 to $1,200 a month, retroactive to January, Coach Hue Menzies said. And Menzies, who has been working free since 2015, is to receive $40,000, he said. According to team officials, this is the first time a Caribbean women’s team has signed contracts with its national federation. “We haven’t been paid,” Menzies said with a laugh. “But we signed a contract.”
Congratulations to the Reggae Girlz and Cedella Marley, and best wishes for the World Cup!