Sport

Girlz' World Cup success a monumental statement of what's possible – LeBlanc

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Deputy Sport Editor

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Print this page Email A Friend!


Jamaica's mind-bending qualification to the Fifa Women's World Cup in France next year has triggered new perspectives around the power and possibilities of the female game.

That evening at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, not only changed the lives of these stout-hearted Reggae Girlz for their history-making heroics, but the achievement has importantly revolutionised the thinking of women's football not only in the Caribbean, but the wider Concacaf.

Jamaica, coached by USA-based Hue Menzies, became the first Caribbean nation to qualify for the senior Women's World Cup when they defeated Central America's Panama 4-2 on penalties, after both teams played out an epic 2-2 regulation and extra time draw in the third-place match of the Concacaf Women's Championship last month.

For head of women's football at Concacaf Karina LeBlanc, the Girlz' success opens up greater possibilities in the life-changing potential of women's football, and importantly too, presents a great opportunity to change negative perceptions.

“There are many reasons why many young girls don't play the game, especially in the Caribbean region, because the parents are not believing in and not seeing the power of the game.

“That's why it's important to show these Jamaican girls', who are getting the full scholarships to go to college, and showing the power of the game by saying that if you play, your school grades could be better, you could be more disciplined, you could be goal-oriented, and you could be surrounded by women who actually want to do things in life… so the key is changing the perception of the game to let parents see what's possible,” said the Canadian.

LeBlanc, who represented Canada's senior women's team at the World Cup, says Jamaica's story should serve to inspire and motivate but should also be documented for future reference, as the confederation drives development of the game in the Caribbean and Central America in particular.

“I know the importance of this for Jamaica, the Caribbean, Concacaf and for all women… now that Jamaica has done this, women from all over the Caribbean will think, 'hey, I can do this', and they will think that there is a chance that they can go.

“These women looking on will not only be watching the World Cup thinking it's not only cool for them (Girlz), but this could be us… It truly helps the conversation because for me, one of the things I want people to see is that women's football is not a cost anymore, it's an opportunity — and that is what excites most,” said LeBlanc, who shares Jamaican and Dominican parentage.

She believes that with Jamaica's success and the development muscle of Concacaf, women's football in the region may have a new lease on life.

“We are building the new brand of Concacaf Women to show what the game can do for young girls, how the game can change their lives. And the women of Jamaica doing that, I think we will see an increased number of participation… I think we are going to see young girls watching the TV or reading the papers, and going on social media saying that could be me,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

LeBlanc, who was appointed to the post to run Concacaf's women's programme in August, says she is still working out the finer details of her strategy to grow the game, but hinted that Jamaica's Hollywood-like story will be a platform from which game-changing messages can be launched in servicing Concacaf's multicultural realities.

“I am still working out my strategy and I think the best ones are the ones that you don't rush into. And I am taking my time in truly understanding the 41 countries, and they are not all the same really… you have the North Americans, you have Central America and the Caribbean… it's about moving the sticks in all those regions. The biggest thing, I believe, is to show people what's possible in the women's game.

“As the players are inspiring we want to increase participation and build on what we already have… I am not coming here to change everything that has been done because we have done a lot in the game, but there is a lot more we can do. For me, it is all of those things and about the perception of the game,” she reasoned.

LeBlanc, 38, says Jamaica's tale comes close to home, with her umbilical cord tied to the Caribbean having been born in Dominica, and possessing Jamaican ancestry.

And while her role as chief of women's football at Concacaf is all-encompassing and passion-driven, she cannot separate herself from what the Jamaican young women have done and its potential to effect change.

“I have spoken about the success of Jamaica every single day since it happened because this [is] part of my story, as I grew up in Dominica and came to Jamaica on many big holidays because that's where my grandparents live.

“I was in Jamaica for the women's CFU qualifiers and speaking to these women, and I am seeing how the game is changing their lives and the pride with which they do it.because one of the things you do when you play for your country, you do so with your flag over your heart; and there are two types of people who get to do that — those who protect the country and those who inspire the country… so these girls are representing their country, their families and a whole confederation,” she ended.

ADVERTISEMENT




POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT