The Guyana Football Federation (GFF), which oversees the management and administrative aspects of football in the country, works to promote the sport as an activity that provides social, physical, and educational benefits to young people and adults alike.
On the international level, the GFF is responsible for selecting the senior men’s team as well as the U-23, U-17, and U-15 teams. Competing in the Caribbean Football Union of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), the men’s senior team has yet to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, but they achieved a monumental feat by qualifying for their first CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2019.
Like the men’s senior team, the women’s national football team competes in CONCACAF. There’s also a national league in which women players are evaluated for national team consideration. Here are five things you need to know to understand the growth and development of the women’s game in Guyana:
Like several other sports, football was mostly restricted to men in its early days. Men’s competition has been in every Summer Olympics since 1900 (except for 1932), while a women’s tournament wasn’t added to the Olympic agenda until the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
Though women have been playing football for decades, professional women’s football doesn’t have an extensive history, particularly in Guyana. The women’s football program built steadily in the 21st century and peaked in 2010, when the Guyana national women’s team, known as the Lady Jags, made the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying Championship tournament in Mexico.
2010 CONCACAF Gold Cup
The Lady Jags qualified for their first-ever CONCACAF Women’s Championship entry in 2010 after winning the Caribbean play-off. Eight nations participated in the tournament and Guyana was placed in Group A alongside Canada, Mexico, and Trinidad & Tobago. Canada won the group—and eventually the entire tournament—while Guyana lost all three of their group stage games by a combined score of 19-3. Their closest result was a 4-1 loss to Trinidad & Tobago. Nonetheless, simply qualifying for the event marked a significant step forward for Guyana’s women’s program.
A 28-year-old native of Ontario, Canada, Miriam El-Masri is of Guyanese descent and is one of the country’s most accomplished female players on the international stage. She was only 19 years old when she scored Guyana’s first-ever CONCACAF Women’s Championship goal against Mexico. She also scored the team’s lone goal in its loss to Trinidad & Tobago. Moreover, she registered Guyana’s first goal in tournament qualifying.
Although Guyana didn’t qualify for the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, El-Masri again represented the country in qualifying and scored a pivotal game-tying goal in the 71st minute of a match against Guatemala that the Lady Jags eventually won 2-1. Masri also represented Guyana during the 2016 Olympic qualifiers.
The Always National Women’s Development League
Despite the Lady Jags capturing the attention of the nation by qualifying for the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, the GFF was unable to capitalize on this momentum, leaving some of the country’s best female players without a permanent league in which to play. However, in recent years, the governing body has sought to ensure young girls receive the same opportunities in the sport as young boys and fostered competition through the creation of the Women’s Development League.
Established in 2015, the league was expected to serve as a precursor to an expanded, official women’s league and that came to fruition in 2018 when the GFF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs and ANSA McAL, announced the creation the Always National Women’s Development League.
Acknowledging that the women’s team has achieved more international success than the men, GFF president Wayne Forde noted that the three agencies invested a combined $10.5 million into the league. The league’s inaugural season spanned from October 2018 to March 2019 and featured 49 teams with games played in Linden, Berbice, Bartica, Mahdia, Moruca, and the Rupununi.
“When we speak about female football, we hear development, so it is comforting to see the progress women’s football has made in Guyana and the length that we go to ensure that there is continued development,” said Lady Jags player Lakeisha Pearson following the 2018 announcement. “The players are extremely grateful for the opportunity to showcase and develop their talent in the wonderful sport. So, we look forward to a great league and we welcome this with open arms.”
FIFA Ranking and Recent International Matches
The Lady Jags’ most recent international match was a 0-0 draw in a FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier against Barbados on May 27, 2018. Prior to that, it defeated Suriname 6-1 and tied Bermuda 2-2 in qualifying. In the most recent FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings, Guyana is No. 89 ahead of Malaysia and behind Senegal. In comparison, the men’s national team is ranked No. 178.