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Jamaica's Reggae Girlz are the underdog heroes at the Women's World Cup

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

After coming up short against Sweden, the U.S. women's soccer team is out of the World Cup. It's the first time the U.S. women have been sent home this early, but there is still plenty of magic left in the tournament. The Jamaican team, for example, nicknamed the Reggae Girlz, has made it to the round of 16 for their first time ever. They're playing Colombia tomorrow. And they've become the underdog heroes of this World Cup. To find out more, we've reached out to Charles Edwards, a former coach of the Jamaican national women's team. Hello there.

CHARLES EDWARDS: Good morning, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: So first of all, what was your reaction when the Reggae Girlz advanced to the knockout round? You must have been excited.

EDWARDS: It was, like, over the moon. Everybody in Jamaica was just celebrating - so excited. It's such a fantastic feat for us to have accomplished.

MCCAMMON: Tell me about your time coaching the Jamaican women's team. What were some of the challenges that you faced? How did the team overcome them?

EDWARDS: Well, the team has been around for a long time. If you know Jamaica, it's cricket and football country. And there are other sports, but football is one of the more prominent sports that has always been around. It has been played in communities in small groups, stuff like that. But the federation came about many years ago, and they had the team. So I have been coaching for close to 35 years, and I was appointed head coach 2007 to 2010.

We prepared a team, went to Pan American Games. We had a fantastic tournament there. You know, we got knocked out early, but we were, you know, learning what it was all about on the international scene. The - some of the obstacles that we have faced is lack of funding, lack of playing fields because in the cities, you know - find that it's very populated. And if we go outside of the city, we can find fields, but it's not, you know, really suitable for us at that point, that distance away. But the funding becomes the main problem or is the main problem. And we have been fighting assiduously to try and remedy that. So what we have is the government funding us sometimes, corporate Jamaica funding us sometimes - FIFA, also, a lot of money to us. Sepp Blatter, who was adamant about women's football becoming the future of football - you know, he gave a lot of support throughout the world, but he gave the region - you know, the Caribbean region - all of us a lot of money so we could look after our development program significantly.

MCCAMMON: So you're no longer a coach - obviously still a big fan. What should we know about these women on the Jamaican national women's team?

EDWARDS: Well, for the first time, we have a bunch of girls who are maybe 95% professionals playing in England or in France or in Spain - all over the world. They're playing - some of them play in the USA also, and our goalkeeper, especially - Spencer from Tottenham, Drew Spence at Tottenham, Bunny Shaw from Manchester City. So we have quite a bit of professional players. And what you're seeing right now is that change from the local-based players to the professional players, which is really knitting us together. They are so experienced, and they are able to come together and carry the team to the final round of 16, which is great for us. So we are looking forward to another great match against Colombia, to be honest with you.

MCCAMMON: Yeah, quickly - 30 seconds or so - what do you expect to see in that match tomorrow?

EDWARDS: I think we'll be very competitive, but I think the coach has to get it perfectly right because Colombia is a pretty good team. So I'm hoping that I'll be on the celebrating side, jumping and having a fun time.

MCCAMMON: (Laughter) We know you'll be rooting for them. Charles Edwards, former coach of the Jamaica National Women's Soccer Team. Thanks so much for your time.

EDWARDS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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