Creative Soccer Culture

How Jamaica Are Bringing Their Own Energy To WWC23

It’s not been an easy road to the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand for Jamaica, but despite the obstacles and adversity, they’re there, and their infectious spirit and unity, which we witnessed first-hand at their training camp in Amsterdam, is ready to make its mark Down Under and on the watching world.

Imagine, if you will, the small, Caribbean island of Jamaica, qualifying for a major international competition against all odds and yet having no backing from their federation as they head off on the adventure of a lifetime. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s basically the synopsis for Cool Runnings, the 1993 Disney-produced classic loosely based on the debut of the Jamaican national bobsleigh team at the 1988 Winter Olympics. (If you haven’t watched it, then seriously, what’re you doing). But in a sad parallel to that story, 35 years on from the original Jamaican bobsleigh team’s performance and three decades on from that film’s original release, the Jamaican women’s football team, affectionately known as the Reggae Girlz, have found themselves in an all-to similar position following their qualification for the 2023 World Cup. Minus the Ice and the late, great John Candy though, of course.

The Reggae Girlz are actually gearing up for their second World Cup appearance in a row, following their first-ever qualification for the competition in 2019, and now with the 2023 competition in Australia and New Zealand. But that ongoing improvement and success hasn’t been appropriately supported by the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF), who have failed to provide the basics needed for the team to function, with concerns stemming from subpar planning, transportation, accommodations, training conditions, compensation, communication, nutrition, and accessibility to proper resources. It’s even resulted in missed friendlies, as well as players not receiving the agreed upon compensation when camps are organised.

The lack of support from the JFF has been well documented, with several star players openly sharing their concerns going into this summer’s tournament. However, through adversity comes unity, and if ever this could be encapsulated, it would be through the spirit of the Reggae Girlz, which we experienced first hand when we hooked up with the squad at their pre-flight training camp in Amsterdam (which was able to happen in large part thanks to technical sponsors, adidas), and which the versatile Deneisha Blackwood backed up. “First thing you realise coming into the national team is the vibes; it's so welcoming and everybody loves to dance, there's no negative energy,” she explained. “It just shows what the country’s like – it’s more than just the beaches and mountains. We bring out the best in each other. That's what the national team is and will always be.”

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The lack of support from the JFF was brought into full focus for us when we were privy to the fact that the squad had only had it confirmed that their flights to Australia had been booked while we were literally sat with them – just over a week away from the tournament’s kick off. Despite this though, there was an unbreakable spirit surrounding the camp and the squad as a whole, with players permeating an infectious optimism. “The vibes just always keep going, no matter what's happening,” Blackwood said. “No matter what we're going through, there's always happiness, there's always love and dancing.”

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Ah, the dancing. You may think it’s something of a stereotype to think of Jamaicans always dancing, but it’s the absolute truth – the dancing in the Reggae Girlz camp almost never stops, like a joy-fuelled engine that drives the camaraderie within the team. “I've always said this team feels like my second family, because we share the same stuff – we argue together, but we also come together and we laugh and dance – we’re always dancing!” says Blackwood, a mischievous grin spreading across her face as she attempts to restrain her feet from shifting into a jig of joy – an almost uncontrollable reflex action that the whole squad seem to be afflicted by. Already can’t wait to see that first goal celebration at the World Cup.

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Blackwood has played club football across America and Europe, and yet her heart is always with Jamaica, with a squad she refers to as family. They’re similar sentiments shared by Tiffany Cameron, who started her international career as a youth with Canada, before swapping to Jamaica as a senior. “I think the fact that everyone is open to expressing themselves in different ways, especially on this team, is amazing. We have dancers, we have some with musical talent, we have some that make us laugh, and I think that it's so easy to come into this camp and feel like you belong. The girls have a really good energy.”

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That feels like something of an understatement. It’s not just an energy in the traditional run-around-the-pitch sense though; it’s a vibrancy that feels like it comes from simply being Jamaican. Everyone has something unique about them and on the field we’re flashy,” Cameron explained when asked about how that vibe translates into the team. “You can tell people’s different personalities, they come out on the field and I think that's super important. We're not a boring team to watch. We have a lot of speed up top especially. I'm really looking forward to the World Cup.”

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The Lorne Donaldson-coached Reggae Girlz team have been drawn in Group F alongside the trio of Brazil, France, and Panama and will play their first fixture on July 29 against Panama. As far as challenges go, it’s right up there, but compared to what the team has had to put up with in the build up to the tournament, the games themselves are to be relished, and Cameron is certainly chomping at the bit. “I think we have a tough group,” she said. “For me personally, I love challenges, being put under pressure. I think this group in particular, we have some really talented players, young and older, and we're definitely better than the last World Cup cycle, so I’m looking forward to seeing how we adjust to the pressure that's going to be placed on us.” You know what they say happens to a lump of coal under pressure? Spoiler: it turns into a diamond.

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For Cameron, her creativity also translates into a musical career away from the pitch, and it’s this type of creativity that forms the DNA of the national team, something adidas have been keen to tap into since they took the reins as technical partner earlier this year. They recruited Wales Bonner – the London-based designer with Jamaican roots – to create the new collection for both the men’s and women’s teams, a move that instantly boosted the nation’s global appeal, showing just a flavour of just why Jamaica can be a real canvas of creativity for the brand. And with that kit in mind, it’s the women who get to show it off on the biggest stage. “Oh yeah, adidas did a great job. This is definitely the best kit that Jamaica has ever worn, and we're honoured” said Cameron.

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The Wales Bonner-designed Jamaica collection has propelled Jamaica forward into a premium national-team space previously owned by Nike with South Korea and more prominently, Nigeria. Adidas have previously explored this space with the likes of Japan, with whom they produced a special pre-match kit and collection by legendary designer Nigo – the man behind BAPE, but now it’s the turn of Jamaica.

The Three Stripes can fully utilise everything that the nation has to offer, pouring it into its output whilst also being able to draw upon so many creative forces from different cultures to create some truly special collections. As part of the original announcement, adidas said that "this special partnership will not only celebrate Jamaican football but also Jamaican style and culture,” and that certainly suggests that both the brand and the federation are more than open to taking strides into the cultural side of the game. And this is a mutually beneficial arrangement, with adidas only to ready to support the growth of the Jamaican game, something that was evident in the staging of this pre-tournament training camp in Amsterdam.

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After an uncertain past, Jamaican women's football appears to have an exciting future. The national team was disbanded in 2004 after they failed to qualify for the 2003 Women's World Cup and the Women's Olympic Football Tournament in Beijing, 2008. In 2010 the team was 128th on the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Ranking before the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) cut the programme entirely for both the senior national side and the Olympic side. They disappeared from the global ladder a year later due to prolonged inactivity.

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But in 2014, the national side rose from the ashes and began to receive funding and recruit players ahead of that year's Concacaf W Championship. They may have finished third in their group and failed to qualify for Canada 2015, but by 2017 the country was back on the FIFA Ranking and their ascent has continued ever since. It’s an inspiring fairytale rise, and the Reggae Girlz aren’t ready to stop here. “I think growing up in Jamaica is a struggle,” said Blackwood, once again defining what makes the Reggae Girlz spirit. “You have to make decision about what you want and how you want it and I think for me personally, growing up and watching my mother raise five children on her own, that just showed me a lot of courage and strength, and that not only she can have it, but I can have it too. That's the kind of environment we've created for the national team. Everyone here's grown up with different struggles, and they use that as their strength and motivation.

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More than anything then, what we’re taking away from our time with the Reggae Girlz (other than a few new steps for the dance floor) is that this is a squad of players that has absolute faith and love for each other. There’s a real sense of strength emanating from what is a side that’s full of character. Sure, everyone obviously wants their home nation to do well at a World Cup first and foremost, but as second teams go, Jamaica ticks all the boxes: plucky underdogs, great looking kits, exciting players, and just a whole heap of fun.

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Blackwood finished off on a poignant note that rather summed up why we’ll be cheering them on Down Under. “Going to the last World Cup I was pretty young mentally, but this one I think I'm more mature. It's kind of personal for me because I've had a rough two years. Having these girls, it’s part of the reason why I call them family, 'cause they keep me whole. So, this World Cup is for me, but it's also for them.”

As well as being the film’s title, Cool Runnings is also an expression in Jamaica that means ‘peace be thy journey’, and never could there be a more apt phrase for the Reggae Girlz as they embark on their WWC23 campaign.

Feel the rhythm, feel the ride, get on up it’s Reggae Girlz time. That’s some Cool Runnings right there.

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Shop the adidas x Jamaica 2023 collection at

Daniel Jones

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