With the Reggae Girlz’s bandwagon now rapidly mushrooming into a king-size caravan, the narrative has swiftly moved from the sublime to the ridiculous, as it relates to the addition of new players to the squad heading into the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which would automatically mean the replacement of some members of the current squad. The spiralling outbursts were in response to recent pronouncements made by assistant coach Andrew Price that during the girlz’ trip to England, the coaching staff would be exploring the option of inviting England based players who possibly could add quality to the current team. The rebuttals to Price’s suggestion have been as emotional as they have been irrational. The common sentiment seems to be that the coaching staff, and, by extension, the Jamaica Football Federation, should show total respect and loyalty to the girls, who, through their blood, sweat, and tears, actually put Jamaican football on this historic pedestal, and not be tempted to venture down the road of replacing any of these girls with players who might want to jump on to the bandwagon for the big show. It is obvious that the overkill of foreign-born players that diminished the Reggae Boyz’ standing over the last two or three World Cup qualifying campaigns is fresh in the minds of the purveyors of these misguided ideals. The simple fact of the matter is though that as historic and as novel as the achievement of the Girlz’s qualification has been, it’s still a mere qualification, a ticket to the big dance, so to speak. This is not a case of one set of girls winning a tournament and the coaching staff or the Federation unfairly sending replacements to attend the trophy presentation and awards ceremony. The World Cup is a massive stage, and prime opportunity to represent and showcase Jamaica’s women’s football. The best teams in the World will be competing for the biggest prize in the sport. The responsibility of the coaching staff and the federation must be to select and prepare a team to best represent Jamaica on that premier platform. Don’t close the doors To venture down the road of closing the doors on possibly improving the team is both myopic and foolhardy. In addition to the increasing amounts paid to all the teams that qualified for the showpiece event, just last week, FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced a 100 per cent increase in overall prize money for next year’s tournament, up from US$15 million (over JA$2 billion) to US$30 million (over JA$4 billion), as well as preparation funding of approximately US$500,000 (over JA$67 million) per team. Also, there is the introduction of a Club Benefits Programme aimed at rewarding the clubs of all the players participating in the tournament with a total of over US$8 million (over JA$1 billion). All of this is in addition to the cumulative sums to be earned by each team, depending on how they finish the tournament. These are hard-core incentives, not just to qualify for the World Cup, but to advance as far into the tournament as possible. It is also an incentive to continue to qualify and make progress consistently in many World Cups to come, thus the logical need to ensure the constant improvement of the team. The notion of unflinching and immovable loyalty to the current set of Reggae Girlz is akin to an English Football League Championship team in England gaining promotion to the Premier League, and out of loyalty to the players who gained them promotion the club, management refuses to add the better-quality players to their roster, which would be needed to keep the team competitive enough to maintain its Premier League status. It is absolutely incumbent on the Jamaican coaching staff to open their minds to the clear objective of Jamaica fielding our best possible team at the World Cup. It is an important balancing the act aimed at improving the stock of the Reggae Girlz for the World Cup finals in France and beyond. We need to shed the emotions and understand that qualifying for the World Cup is not the end game, but rather the beginning of a new game. In that regard, we must aim to improve the team so we can bring our best game.