Pass the past: Busby focused on fresh start with Reggae Girlz; targets 2027 World Cup in new tenure

By May 14, 2024 being successful means giving the players and the programme the best chance to be successful, so that's where it's at, and I just need to focus on that. being successful means giving the players and the programme the best chance to be successful, so that's where it's at, and I just need to focus on that. File

Using the famous Chinese proverbs "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” as his mantra, Jamaica’s senior Reggae Girlz Head coach Hubert Busby Jr is focused on leading the country’s women’s programme to new heights with a renewed sense of purpose and determination.

By all indications, the sexual misconduct controversy that marred, and eventually ended his previous tenure as Head coach in 2021, is now firmly in Busby’s rearview mirror, as he was cleared of any wrongdoing by FIFA. He has since replaced the past events with a firm focus on success and progress, as he strives to breathe new life into the senior Reggae Girlz setup.

"As you can imagine, it has been a little bit of a whirlwind, but in everything, you just want to make sure you're giving yourself the best opportunity to be successful. Me being successful means giving the players and the programme the best chance to be successful, so that's where it's at, and I just need to focus on that. What occurred in the past is neither here nor there for me anymore,” Busby, who is currently in the island, told SportsMax.TV.

While his reappointment may come as a surprise to many, for Busby it was a matter of letting fate take its course.

“I wouldn't know if it was surprised. I think I've always…even through this (controversy of the past), I think I've always had a good relationship with the federation, and I understood their rationale and reason why they needed to do what they did. I do wish we could have obviously cleared some things up a lot sooner, but in everything I realized it's not my timing, it is God's timing, and this was just the right time,” he shared.

Despite his familiarity with the players, Busby pointed out that the approach will be one of new beginnings as opposed to picking up where he left off, as the programme itself has been through some turbulent times since his departure.

After Busby was sidelined, Vinimore ‘Vin’ Blaine took over for a short time before a scathing letter from the players forced his resignation, after which Lorne Donaldson was brought back and led the Girlz to an historic appearance in the knockout stage at last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, before he too departed, as the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) opted not to renew his contract.

Since then, the JFF and members of the World Cup squad had been at loggerheads, and that eventually resulted in Ambassador Cedella Marley resigning her post out of frustration, and she pulled the support of Bob and Rita Marley Foundation with her. Still, the players held firm in their stance and withdrew their services over non-payment and mistreatment from the JFF.

Then came the interim appointment of Xavier Gilbert, who lead an inexperienced team through a failed Gold Cup qualifying campaign and a few other fixtures.

Now, with Gilbert still to serve as his assistant, and the World Cup players back in the fold after almost nine months, coupled with his reappointment, Busby views the cycle as an opportunity for all and sundry to start afresh.

"It's the beginning of a new cycle, obviously, the Girlz created history at the last World cup and accomplished something that the country and all Jamaicans should be proud of. But really, it's about a new beginning, and with that comes new expectations and a new level of commitment that's needed both on and off the field to ensure that we have success,” Busby declared.

“The first step to every relationship is to have clear and open lines of communication and transparency. I think that's where it starts. We are not always going to agree with everything, but there has to be a common line where we're doing the best we can for the programme and the best we can for the people of Jamaica. That should be the guiding principle on which we go forward, but it's going to require a lot of work to ensure that we are communicating and operating at a very high level to ensure that the programme concedes full potential,” he added.

As he sets his sights on finalizing his technical staff, as well as to work with the JFF to iron out any kinks, Busby also expressed confidence in the potential and talent pool of the women’s programme to continue on the path to success.

“There's no doubt that we have a great core of players, and there are also some really young players that emerged in the last nine months that really need to be considered and there are other players that we've been monitoring as well. So, I think the next few windows are really about continuing to evaluate the pool of players to ensure that we're putting together a truly cohesive team that can go into the World cup qualifiers,” the former national goalkeeper reasoned.

 “I think familiarity, obviously would have played a key role in my reappointment for sure. I think this way it allows for the foundational pieces to be built on, because it is important that we continue to build and grow. But above everything else, knowing what the players can do, knowing who they are, and understanding how we can get the best out of them are some things that I want to continue to work on. So, we're looking forward to utilizing each and every window to get ready for 2025,” he noted.

That said, Busby could not have asked for a higher calibre opponent than Brazil as first assignment to hit the ground running. The tactician and his team are set to depart the island next Sunday for the South American nation where they will engage a two-match friendly series on June 1 and June 3.

Both teams crossed path at the 2019 and 2023 World Cups where Brazil won the first meeting 3-0, while the Girlz battled gallantly for a goalless stalemate last year which booked their spot in the Round of 16. However, Busby will be without prolific striker Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw and winger Kalyssa 'Kiki' Van Zanten due to injury, while young attacker Solai Washington, who was a part of the World Cup squad, misses out on this occasion.

“That Brazilian team now has also gone through a tremendous restructuring, they've gone relatively young, but they've also kept some really important players because I think Marta is still there until the end of the year, through the Olympic Games. But they have a lot of talented young players in their system, and they're hungry and dynamic as well, so these two games will pose a lot of questions for us, and I must say I've been impressed with what the new coach has been able to do with them already,” the tactician said as he assessed the opponents.

“So, for us, I think the idea is, therefore, to try to keep things a little simple. We're going to do the best we can to get our players up to speed in the time that we have them. But this is really the first step in what will be a journey.

“Obviously, we'll go out there to be competitive, it goes without saying that we've got all these tremendous athletic qualities as a nation, but being able to keep the ball a bit more and be able to dictate the tempo a bit more is something that we want to be able to improve on. But it really is about focusing on the process of getting better each and every camp and every, each and every time that we're together,” he ended.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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