Twenty years ago, the Jamaican mens’ soccer team made history by qualifying for its first World Cup. Now, Jamaica’s women’s team—known affectionately as the Reggae Girlz—have next.
On Wednesday night in Texas, Jamaica beat Panama 4-2 on penalties after playing their opponent to a 2-2 draw. With the win, the Reggae Girlz took third place at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship and became the first Caribbean country to qualify for a senior Women’s World Cup, according to FIFA.
It’s an incredible turnaround for a team that had ceased to exist eight years ago, when the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) cut funding to the team, the BBC reports. In fact, it wasn’t until a major boost from Bob Marley’s first-born daughter, Cedella Marley, that the team got back on track.
In 2014, Marley became the team’s official ambassador, helping to sponsor the team through the Bob Marley Foundation. Marley previously told the BBC World Service the Reggae Girlz could become “a very dominant presence” in women’s soccer, provided they get the same funding and support the country’s track and field stars receive.
Watching the thrilling third-place match, Marley says she had to go outside and meditate because she kept getting light-headed.
“By the time the last penalty went in we were all on the floor,” she told the BBC. “Daddy would probably not be surprised when I put my foot into something, stuff happens. He’d be like, ‘that’s my girl’.”
Jamaica head coach Hue Menzies shouted out Marley following the thrilling victory, which came on penalty kicks.
“Big up to Cedella Marley for putting the neck on the line for us,” Menzies said, adding that the win was “a lot more than football.”
“This is just a statement. We’re going to go back home and celebrate. There’s not a whole lot of space on that island, but we’re going to find every inch to celebrate on because it’s history,” she said.
“We’re going to change the culture back home,” Menzies said. “How they perceive women, it’s changed.”
Jamaica, Canada and the USA will represent CONCACAF in the Women’s World Cup in France next year.