Believe in our girls! - Gilbert wants greater recognition for women's programme after World Cup qualification
Junior national women's coach Xavier Gilbert believes Jamaica could have already qualified for a FIFA Women's World Cup and credited former women's technical director, Vin Blaine, as a key component in the team's foundations.
Current head coach Hue Menzies yesterday lead the senior Reggae Girlz to qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time in the nation's history, following a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over Panama, which followed a 2-2 draw.
The national senior women's programme was sidelined in 2010, after a lack of funding and was only revived in 2014 after the intervention of Cedella Marley and a couple sponsors.
"I'm ecstatic, happy for the girls, happy for the country. It's well deserved, it's been coming for quite a while. We have been close on some occasions and unlucky on some occasions, but once I saw the draw, I was confident we could do well," Gilbert said.
LACK OF FUNDING
"In 2006, we narrowly missed out on the U-20s, with these same players and the Mexico coach said he didn't want to play us in the next three years because of how well we played. We came fourth that time and only three teams made it," he added.
"But then the programme took a break and we lost out. But if we had stuck with these players, we would have qualified already. Lack of funding and other things kept us out of international football, but we always fancied ourselves, even though it is always difficult with the powerhouses in Concacaf - US and Canada."
Gilbert not only wants more respect, appreciation, and support for local women's football, but wants a blueprint for qualification to be now devised
"The Marley Foundation and Cedella believes in the programme and we are now reaping the rewards and we hope others will follow. Hopefully, now there is a blueprint for us to qualify.
Gilbert further noted that Blaine played a crucial role in the development and transformation of the national set-up, and must take credit for starting the recruitment of overseas-based Jamaicans, while keeping the junior programme active at a time when the seniors were out of action.
"This journey started with Vin Blaine when he took over the women's programme and made a lot of transformation. So a lot of credit must be given to him for the vision and transformation to the women's game," he said.