The progress and success of the ‘Lady Jags’
There was a new name in the mix for FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup™ qualification earlier this year, with Guyana reaching the latter stages of a lengthy Concacaf campaign.
Though a member of Concacaf, Guyana is situated at the northern end of the South American mainland and is the only English-speaking nation on the continental landmass.
Their football pedigree at international level has, in truth, been modest since gaining independence in 1966. Progressing to the penultimate stage of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifying remains a standout achievement.
But it is in women’s football where Guyanese investment over the past few years is starting to yield tangible rewards. The national side – the Lady Jags – qualified for the eight-nation 2010 Concacaf Women’s Championship to provide an early insight into their potential.
More recently, the U-20 side won an unprecedented six straight matches en route to the quarter-finals of the continental championship, falling just one step short of what would normally be the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup qualification round. Their charge was ended only by a strong Haiti side and their free-scoring forward Melchie Dumornay, with the Caribbean nation impressing in their maiden U-20 Women’s World Cup appearance at France 2018.
The start of Guyana’s progression dates back some four years with the arrival of current Technical Director Ian Greenwood, and the national roll-out of a female-targeted grassroots campaign. Soon after came Guyana Football Federation’s (GFF) first Women’s Development Officer, Tricia Munroe, such an appointment being a central part of a national football development strategy.
2018 proved to be even more significant with a women’s national league held and the international senior women’s programme relaunched. The nation also hosted matches in qualifiers for the Concacaf Women’s Championship.
“This success is no accident,” Greenwood told FIFA.com about the U-20 team’s achievements. “It is clear evidence that the GFF’s national football philosophy and robust youth development strategy are producing top-class performers and coaches. The GFF ATC (Academy Training Centres) academy programme is regarded by FIFA/Concacaf as a model of best practice for a youth development structure within the Caribbean region.
“We have a national playing and coaching philosophy, which is implemented across all national teams, combined with an age-specific coaching curriculum. Coach education has reached new heights since 2016 with a record number of licensed coaches and instructors in Guyana. This new workforce of talented grassroots coaches is continually unearthing and nurturing new female talent.
“Through Guyanese migration, we have a unique situation, which means we have a large talent pool abroad to select from based in Canada, USA and the UK. These players significantly strengthen the group due to playing in stronger leagues.”
Harnessing latent talent in a modest and highly ruralised population of some 800,000 remains a challenge for the nation’s football leadership.
“The country remains relatively underdeveloped infrastructurally, resulting in most football venues having very little or no changing room or wash room facilities readily available for female players,” GFF President Wayne Forde told FIFA.com.
“This has severely impacted the growth and development of the game at club and community level. However, despite these fundamental challenges, the female game remains most popular throughout our hinterland regions and is played spiritedly, year-round, by our indigenous tribes, where countless talented national team players have been discovered over the years.”
There are more opportunities ahead for a clearly ambitious GFF. Guyana have qualified for this year’s Concacaf U-17 Women’s Championship where three tickets to India will be up for grabs.
“The recent performance of the U-20 women’s team was a watershed moment for the country, signalling to the powerhouses of Concacaf that Guyana had arrived,” Greenwood added. “They represented the spirit of the Golden Arrowhead (Guyana’s National Flag) with heart, determination and self-belief throughout the competition.
“The success of the team really caught the imagination of the general public in Guyana, which was fantastic for the football brand in a nation better known for its cricketers. The team’s performances inspired a lot of young girls to get involved in football and showcased what we can do with the right approach.
“We believe that the gap between the traditional big nations and the smaller nation is closing within our confederation. We have key ambitions to move up the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking and our flagship goals are attaining FIFA top 60 ranking, Concacaf top 10 ranking, CFU top 5 ranking, senior team Olympic qualification in 2024, and the ultimate target of World Cup qualification in 2027.” (FIFA)