Jamaican defender Allyson Swaby said Friday that a first World Cup win would send a message to the country’s football bosses that the women’s team deserve better treatment.
Jamaica defied a turbulent build-up to the tournament in Australia and New Zealand by taking a point off strongly fancied France in their opening match.
They now find themselves in the unfamiliar role of favourites to beat Panama on Saturday in Perth, for what would be their first-ever World Cup win.
It would also be a major step towards the last 16 and Swaby said their performances could have far-reaching benefits for women’s football in the Caribbean nation.
“The message that we want to send has always been the same — that women’s football is legitimate,” the United States-born Swaby said.
“We’re here to compete, this is our livelihood, it’s the thing that brings us joy, it’s our passion.”
“And we’re always going to be fighting and pushing to be treated as we feel like we should,” the 26-year-old added.
Coach Lorne Donaldson’s team has been in open dispute with their football federation over a lack of support, including issues over pay and poor planning in the build-up to the World Cup.
It has been a struggle for the Jamaican women to get the resources they need to compete and for many years the team has been helped financially by the efforts of Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella.
The frustrated players, who were also upset at late payment of match fees, released a statement last month urging a change in approach from their federation.
They also cited “extreme disorganisation of camp logistics”, which they said had hurt their build-up.
They put all that aside to hold France, one of the pre-World Cup favourites, 0-0, but Swaby said the fight for recognition goes on.
“Everyone sees what we’ve dealt with in the lead-up to this tournament,” she said.
“Ultimately, how we perform in this tournament is just more credibility for us moving forward, fighting for the things that we want to see changed.”
Jamaica will have to do without star striker and skipper Khadija Shaw against Panama, after she was sent off versus France late on, following a second yellow card.
Panama were thumped 4-0 by Brazil in their opener.
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