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Cedella Marley, daughter of Bob and Rita Marley, CEO of Bob Marley Group, and global ambassador of the Jamaican women’s national team, has launched Football is Freedom, a new women’s football initiative aimed at providing tools and resources in an effort to grow and promote the sport for women in the Caribbean, Latin America as well as diaspora communities in the United States.
The launch of Football is Freedom will center around Sunday’s women’s international friendly between Jamaica and Costa Rica — two Concacaf Women’s World Cup qualifying participants — at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The match will serve as a fundraiser, as a portion of the proceeds will be donated to each national team.
Currently in her seventh year as ambassador of the Reggae Girlz, Marley sat down with “Attacking Third,” a CBS Sports podcast dedicated to women’s soccer, to discuss the upcoming event and the need for more investment for Caribbean and Latin American teams.
“The core mission of Football is Freedom is to support the development of women’s football at the grassroots level in the region,” Marley told Attacking Third.
“Hopefully this event will help start the fundraising. We need to do a lot of fundraising for our teams in our region and the diaspora.”
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National Women’s Soccer League and FA Women’s Super League stars will be at center stage during this international friendly, with Portland Thorns FC’s Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez and Manchester City’s Khadija Monifa “Bunny” Shaw likely to feature. This match will also serve as prep for Concacaf W Championship, which serves as qualifiers for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. In February through April, Jamaica will be grouped with Dominican Republic, Bermuda, Grenada and Cayman Islands, while Costa Rica will join a group featuring Guatemala, Saint Kitts and Nevis, U.S. Virgin Islands and Curaçao. If both teams can win their group, they will move onto the W Championship group stage. Only four slots are afforded to Concacaf teams for the World Cup.
Marley hopes FIF is the first positive step in a series of long-term goals that includes the inaugural event, fundraising for teams, future academies and retirement assistance for players down the line.
“We also hope to support the growth and development of national teams by staging annual exhibition matches, mini tournaments, and so we’re just hoping for a lot of things that can happen through Football is Freedom. The big, big thing that we really want to do is actually build academies,” Marley explained. “I want to invest in the holistic wellness of the players. We want to fund scholarships and programs that assist the players.”
FIF will be an event that includes a pregame kickoff party, with Fan Zone experiences, entertainment, and food trucks that will also showcase small businesses and organizations from the South Florida diaspora communities. The friendly between the Reggae Girlz and La Sele will also feature a musical halftime performance. All in an effort to continue fundraising for the teams and build the foundation for FIF moving forward with its ambitions.
“When it’s time for them to retire — you know, which in football, it can be today, or it can be two years, or it can be 10 years — what we have noticed with our Reggae Girlz is that sometimes these injuries don’t get taken care of. And, you know what happens after that? They say ‘Bye-bye, I wish you the best and good luck.’ We want to kind of put an end to that. So it’s ambitious, what we’re doing, but we believe that it has to start somewhere. And if it starts with us, that’s OK.”
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