From the streets of St Ann to Lisbon: Jody Brown’s first pro contract with Benfica the pinnacle of success on an inspiring journey

By June 20, 2024
BROWN...I always aspired to play professionally, and to do so with a club like Benfica is an incredible honour. BROWN...I always aspired to play professionally, and to do so with a club like Benfica is an incredible honour. contributed

To say that Jody Brown’s signing of her first professional contract with Portuguese women’s top-flight club, SL Benfica, is a milestone achievement for both her career and Jamaican football would be a great understatement.

Not only will she be the first player from Jamaica or the Caribbean to parade her skills for the club, which is one of Europe’s most prestigious setups, but she will also realize a lifelong dream on a journey that started on the streets of Lime Hall, St Ann, where she honed her skills with a makeshift ball and an insatiable passion for the game.

It was during that time, when she rubbed shoulders with the boys in her community, that her talent quickly became evident, resulting in her inclusion in local teams and, eventually, Jamaica’s national programme.

Now, the 22-year-old takes a significant step forward in her career with the three-year move to Benfica, where her athleticism and nippy footwork will certainly be an asset.

“Signing with Benfica is a dream come true," Brown told SportsMax.TV, the pride and emotion evident in her tone.

Brown puts pen to paper

“I remember when I just started playing football with the boys in my community, I always aspired to play professionally, and to do so with a club like Benfica is an incredible honour. It’s a nice club, with a lot of history and I always strived to ensure that whichever club I join is one where I can improve and develop my game at a different level. So I’m really excited to join Benfica and can’t wait to get started,” she declared.

Brown's rise in football has been somewhat meteoric, as she first captured international attention at the Under-15 level and she hasn’t looked back since.

In fact, Brown is one of only a few players who have so far represented the country at all four levels — Under-15, Under-17, Under-20 and now the senior level. And she has done so with distinction, as she played a crucial role in Jamaica's historic qualification for the 2019 and 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cups.

"Being a part of Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz has been an amazing experience. It's where I learned to handle pressure and developed my game against some of the best players in the world and I can say that those experiences have prepared me for this next step in my career,” she shared.

“If I should attribute my rise to this level to anything, I would say it is a testament of all the hard work, dedication, and support from my family, coaches, and teammates over the years,” added Brown, who recently assisted Florida State University to the NCAA Division 1 Women's Championship and their retention of the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship title last season.

Brown shares the occasion with former Reggae Girlz Head coach Hue Menzies.

Standing at a shade over 5ft 2in, Brown’s physical presence is by no means imposing, but when the ball is at her feet, she is bound to cause all kinds of problems. It is that explosiveness and the ease at which she glides past opponents on occasions that will make the Reggae Girlz winger a key factor at SL Benfica.

Beyond that, Brown, who has a Bachelor's degree in Humanities, believes the club’s strong commitment to developing talent, coupled with the fact that the Portuguese league is known for its technical style of play, provides the perfect environment for her to continue her growth.

“The opportunity to train and play at such a high level is something I'm really looking forward to as I always aim to grow more as a player and a person, so I can't wait to learn from my new teammates and coaches and to contribute to the team's success. Benfica has a fantastic reputation, and I'm excited to be part of this club's journey,” she noted.

⁠Still, Brown is aware that adjusting to live in Portugal and her club will by no means be easy, but she remains grounded and focused, with a stubborn determination to make a positive impact both on and off the field.

Benfica, the current champions of Portugal, will be involved in Champions League football next season.

“⁠I’m just ready to get settled and hopefully achieve all the goals of the team. I’m ready to adapt in every way possible because that’s a part of the journey of wanting to be the best person or player in an environment where you are not afraid to be yourself. I know what I’m capable of doing and I’m just going to continue learning and improving,” the soft-spoken player said with an air of confidence.

Brown shows off her team scarf.

Meanwhile, former Reggae Girlz Head coach Hue Menzies, who along with Lorne Donaldson, Andrew Price and others were instrumental in Brown’s move from Jamaica to an overseas university, pointed out that her signing is not only a personal achievement, but also a significant moment for Jamaican women's football.

For him, it highlights the growing opportunities for talented players from the island to make their mark on the global stage, as he expressed optimism that Brown’s success will serve as an inspiration to young footballers in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

“It shows that with talent and determination, they too can reach the pinnacle of the sport. We knew she was going to be a special player, so we invested the effort to get her through the process, because she was only 14, so we had to get her acclimated academically and then get her into the youth club system.

“From there, we got her into high school academically and then having opportunities to go to a four-year school immediately after. And then into a really good programme at Florida State where she won two national titles, and four conference titles and she's now becoming a professional player,” Menzies explained.

“So everything that we kind of set forward for her has come through so far, and we are very optimistic that she will continue. We can't take credit for Jody’s football development because she is a natural, we just assisted in the environment that we got her in, and then she took it from there with the goals that she set for herself,” he ended. 

 

Sherdon Cowan

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

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