MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - The daughter of reggae legend Bob Marley is something of a "fairy godmother" for the Jamaica team playing in its second Women's World Cup.
Cedella Marley has been a tireless advocate and fundraiser for the Reggae Girlz and helped rescue the team after it was disbanded in 2008.
Her work has paid of and Jamaica is in the round of 16. The Reggae Girlz play Colombia on Tuesday night in Melbourne, Australia.
"Her support has been really important to us and she's just the heart of this team," said Jamaica player Deneisha Blackwood. "She's just like our fairy godmother. We just appreciate her for everything she has done so far."
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01: Cedella Marley, daughter of Bob and Rita Marley and CEO of Bob Marley Group Of Companies attends the Bob Marley One Love Experience at the Saatchi Gallery on February 1, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/Gett
The Reggae Girlz were disbanded after failing to qualify for the 2007 World Cup and the 2008 Olympics. In 2014, Bob and Rita Marley’s eldest daughter was alarmed to learn the Jamaican soccer federation had stopped funding the team.
Marley hoped to help the Reggae Girlz reach the 2015 World Cup, but the team failed to qualify. The Marley name — Bob Marley was a big soccer fan and player — spurred interest in the Reggae Girlz despite the World Cup miss — and the team made the tournament field in 2019.
"The backbone of this team, all along, has been Cedella," Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson said. "Without her, and I can honestly this, because when the program was under, there was no football for the women. She was the one who pushed the start button and said, `We need to go.'"
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 02: Solai Washington #2 of Jamaica celebrates after the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Group F match between Jamaica and Brazil at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on August 02, 2023 in Melbourn
While the Bob Marley Foundation is among the team’s sponsors, funding is still a concern for the Reggae Girlz. Ahead of the World Cup, a GoFundMe crowdraising campaign was set up by a player's mother. Another was set up by the Reggae Girlz foundation. Both sites aimed to help Jamaica’s women with the costs associated with the World Cup, including a training camp, travel, food, and staff support.
Those appeals came after players, including Cheyna Matthews and Khadija "Bunny" Shaw, posted a statement on social media about pay issues and other problems. The statement cited a lack of proper preparation that they hoped would be addressed by the Jamaican Football Federation.
"We acknowledge that things have not been done perfectly, and we are working assiduously to resolve them," the JFF responded in a statement.
It is hoped that with the team's success at this World Cup, the Reggae Girlz will finally get support.
"I think Cedella has been the most important part of our journey," Blackwood said. "I think the best thing about her is she actually sees us not just as football players but as human beings. And I think that is just something that we've always wanted."