What do Bob Marley, crowdfunding and next summer’s Women’s World Cup have in common?
Jamaica’s “Reggae Girlz” national soccer team and one of the coolest — and most overlooked — stories currently going on in sports.
Back in April, we told you about how the Reggae Girlz’ biggest obstacle in qualifying for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada may not be having the requisite on-pitch skill, tenacity and togetherness to make it. No, it may be a lack of funding.
Without some serious donations to help pay for training, travel and accommodations, the team wouldn’t have had nearly enough money to cover its expenses during its qualifying campaign, Garth-Anthony Savoury, the Jamaica Football Federation’s director of marketing, told Mashable in April.
That’s why Cedella Marley — an activist, entrepreneur and daughter of Bob Marley — stepped in to help lead an online crowdfunding drive aiming to raise money for the Reggae Girlz in their quest to make their first World Cup. As Marley sees it, a lack of Title IX legislation in Jamaica, soccer being seen as a male sport there and an overall limited pool of athletic funding means the Reggae Girlz get left behind. The Reggae Boyz, the country’s men’s national team, does not face the same challenges.
Marley thinks the impact of this lack of opportunity goes well beyond soccer for women and girls in Jamaica.
“This has hindered the development of the program which is a shame because many young women have been able to receive scholarships to college based on their athletic ability,” Marley told Mashable in an email when the effort got underway this spring. “That education empowers not only them but our nation as a whole.”
The story has a happy ending though — at least for now. The Reggae Girlz finished second in a Caribbean tournament recently to qualify for the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship that starts next week. (CONCACAF is the regional soccer confederation to which North American, Central American and Caribbean teams belong.)
While the Reggae Girlz were taking care of business on the pitch, their fans, random supporters, Cedella and the House of Marley company took care of business on the Internet. Cedella helped spread the word, the House of Marley company matched many donations and contributions poured in from the U.S., Russia, Australia and beyond.
Overall, more than $200,000 has been raised via crowdfunding campaigns on GoFundMe and Indiegogo. According to a public relations representative for the team, that’s covered them so far and will help get them through the CONCACAF tournament that starts next week and is hosted by the U.S.
More help might be needed
But this story isn’t necessarily over. If the Reggae Girlz finish in the top three teams at this month’s CONCACAF tournament, they make the World Cup in 2015. If they finish fourth in the eight-team field, they play South America’s fourth-place team for a berth in the World Cup.
And therein lies the rub — the money raised so far has combined with the Reggae Girlz’ play to get them this far. But should the team make history by qualifying for the World Cup, it’d be a bittersweet achievement. Making the World Cup would bring on a whole new round of training, preparation and travel, all of which requires more money.
While a team representative says the squad hopes to attract a corporate sponsor or two should it qualify for the World Cup, it could still have a funding gap to cover. If no corporate sponsors step up, the gap will be even harder to bridge.
As we noted back in April though, the Reggae Girlz wouldn’t be the first Jamaican team to use the Internet’s compassionate crowdfunding to boost them to their sport’s highest stage. Earlier this year, the Jamaican bobsled team made it to the Winter Olympics in Russia partially thanks to Reddit, dogecoin and online donations from around the world.
But first, the Reggae Girlz must perform well at this month’s CONCACAF Women’s Championship. That much, at least, is up to them.