Cedella Marley's inaugural Football Is Freedom Grassroots girls’ football clinic, which was successfully staged at St George’s College’s Winchester Park last weekend, was a great way of celebrating the birthday of her late father and reggae icon Bob Marley, she said.
With young female footballers being deprived of local activity, especially over the last two years, Marley said it was important to keep the young ladies in tune.
The camp, which featured 21 girls in the under-15 age group, was carried out by a technical staff that included national players and coaches such as Hubert Busby Jr, Xavier Gilbert, Tashana Vincent, Sashana Campbell, Alicia James, Jason Henry and a medical team headed by doctor Gillian Lawrence of Imagine More Sports Medicine.
Marley pointed out that one of the core pillars of the Football is Freedom initiative is to nurture and develop female footballers at the grassroots level in Jamaica and the region.
However, she revealed that this particular camp was inspired by her late father’s birthday celebrations.“Having already launched the initiative by staging a camp and international friendly with Costa Rica and the Reggae Girlz, this clinic was the logical next step.
“The theme for my dad’s birthday celebrations this year is ROOTS77, so it seemed only fitting to host a grassroots clinic,” said Marley.
The day's itinerary included technical and physical training sessions, two 7 vs 7 games, lunch and a Q&A with senior Reggae Girlz/professional footballers, Campbell and Vincent.
“Our goal was to give them some technical training, allow them to have some fun, and connect with them about things important to them off the field such as school, mental health, nutrition and social development as young women.
“Our technical and administrative team was able to do that and I’m grateful because hosting a football clinic successfully and safely during these times takes great teamwork and partnership,” she continued.
The programme will continue to give this experience to young ladies across the region with plans to host another in Jamaica very soon.
“The pandemic has severely impacted younger players, not just in Jamaica but the region. We are looking to bring FIFA grassroots experience to young females across the Caribbean.
“The girls were so happy to be training again after such a long hiatus. Their energy and excitement was contagious and we all felt the good vibes,” she said.
Former senior women’s coach Hubert Busby Jr was impressed by the level of talent he saw and said the country is only lacking proper development and opportunities.
“We were reminded how much natural, raw talent we have on this island but they need nurturing. It is up to the powers that be to make sure that football continues at the grassroots level for boys and girls because it is now only happening at the professional level.
“The most important aspect of any programme is to have your local-based development. So it is about development and opportunities for those playing locally,” he said.
The clinic was funded through the Football Is Freedom initiative in partnership with the Bob and Rita Marley Foundations. Additional support was provided by ConCaCaf Women, Imagine More Sports Medicine, MRC Football Academy, Boot Bags, and St. George's College.