Jean Nelson, the late team manager of Jamaica’s Senior Women’s National Football Team, the Reggae Girlz, has been hailed as a compassionate, caring and hard-working individual who dedicated her life to the advancement of women’s football on the island.
Nelson died at the University Hospital of the West Indies on Saturday evening after a short illness.
A former player who was forced to retire due to injuries, Nelson became one of the driving forces who started the first women’s football league, circa 1990, and was the first official president of the Jamaica Women’s Football Association.
She had stepped away from the sport for over a decade but was influenced to return to serve on the women’s committee by Horace Reid in 2007, then general secretary of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).
Since then, she became the manager of the Reggae Girlz team, which became the first English-speaking Caribbean country to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals in France in 2019.
She was last with the Reggae Girlz in Texas, USA, in June. Since her passing, tributes have poured in from the Jamaican football fraternity.
In a statement, the JFF said: “Jean has been the manager of the senior women’s team, the Reggae Girlz, for many years and as fate would have it, she had the distinct pleasure of managing Jamaica’s first and only team to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in 2019.”
“Usually when the anthem plays, I close my eyes, because it’s so deep so I expect it to be very touching. I have always wanted to serve my country; it’s fulfilling, it’s an honour,” Nelson said then.
JFF’s statement continued, “The Jamaica Football Federation sends sincere condolences to her family and friends and especially the Reggae Girlz who have lost a matriarch. May her soul rest in eternal peace.”
Also paying tribute to Nelson was the Ambassador for Jamaica’s women’s football program, Cedella Marley.
“Jean Nelson was one of the first people that I met when I joined the Reggae Girlz program in 2014. Her passion and commitment to the girls was something that bonded us immediately. It’s been a pleasure to work alongside her to serve a purpose greater than ourselves. Jean is not only a part of making history; she is a part of a legacy that we must all now carry forward. I am sending my prayers and love to her family today as I give thanks for the life of such a beautiful spirit.”
Meanwhile, the Jamaica Paralympic Association (JPA) also saluted her, through its president Christopher Samuda.
“The JPA salutes with heartfelt gratitude the contribution of Jean Nelson to sport and, in particular, football where her credentials as a manager to our national team, the Reggae Girlz, and mentor to our youth were well known, admired and respected.
“In her mortal life, she challenged the barriers to self-actualization and spiritual immortality and lived a ministry which embraced the religious hat-trick of body, soul and spirit for which she was not only an ardent advocate but a repeated goal scorer. Selected and appointed in March of this year as the manager for Jamaica’s Paralympic prospective team to the 2023 IPC World Para Athletics Championships, Jean conveyed in the interview attributes which we already knew she possessed that impelled her to have the conviction that our youth, and specifically those with challenges, can rise above and overcome their circumstances and become inspiring citizens. With a deep understanding of the maxim ‘I think therefore I am,’ Jean’s calling was humanitarian in thought, word and deed. The Paralympic family memorializes a life lived well in sport and humanity and for the betterment of the lives of para-athletes to whom she was committed beyond the call of duty.”