No high-ranking official from the Jamaican federation was present to celebrate that momentous qualification in a penalty shootout against Panama, the team’s coaches said.
“Their attitude has been pretty poor,” goalkeeper Nicole McClure, 29, said of the Jamaican soccer federation. “We’ve always been an afterthought, and we’re still fighting for equality. We want a seat at the table. It’s been quite frustrating.”
In March, McClure, who grew up in Queens, held her own fund-raiser. She plays without compensation on a club team in Northern Ireland, and she needed money to pay for food, toiletries, a bus ticket, checked baggage for a flight and some soccer gear. Her needs were not uncommon for her team.
Yet she and her teammates — and Jamaica’s coaches — acknowledged this week that things are improving, at least for the moment. 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.”
Michael Ricketts, the president of Jamaica’s soccer federation, said that criticism of the organization had been “grossly unfair.” The federation has spent about $4 million on the women’s team since it began qualifying for the World Cup, he said. Costs to hold a weeklong training camp can run to $100,000, Ricketts said, and it has been a struggle to get spectators and corporate sponsors to embrace the team. Even so, he said, a women’s league in Jamaica has been restarted on a limited basis, as well as a youth program for players under 15.
Under the circumstances, Ricketts said, “We’ve done exceedingly well.”
The Reggae Girlz coaching staff disputed the $4 million figure. “No way,” said Lorne Donaldson, an assistant coach. “I don’t buy that.”
Instead, coaches and players widely credit a different benefactor, Cedella Marley, for resurrecting the women’s team with help from the Bob Marley Foundation, which is named after her musician father. Cedella Marley, angered by the sorry state of the program, was the one who spearheaded an international fund-raising effort to revive it several years ago, and she was the one who convinced Menzies, who runs a prominent youth soccer club near Orlando, Fla., to become its coach.