SYDNEY: Lennox Swaby couldn’t see who put the ball in the net to give Jamaica their first Women’s World Cup win, 1-0 over Panama. After the video board showed the replay, the fans surrounding him in the Perth stadium stands began to cheer and congratulate him.
One of his daughters — and yes, he had two on the field — had scored the goal.
“There’s hardly words to explain,” said Swaby, reached by phone Wednesday morning. “It’s just so real.”
On Wednesday night, Allyson and Chantelle Swaby and the rest of the Reggae Girlz were playing No. 8 Brazil in Melbourne for a chance to make more Jamaican soccer history.
A win would advance 43rd-ranked Jamaica past the group stage for the first time. Jamaica’s defense against Brazil was likely to rely once more on the Swaby sisters, a pair of defenders coach Lorne Donaldson likes to call “Double Swaby.”
Jamaica played No. 5 France to a 0-0 draw in their opener and both teams had four points heading to the last of the Group F games. Wedged between two top 10 teams, Jamaica needed a win or draw against Brazil to reach the knockout round.
“I think they’re gonna surprise the world,” said Lennox Swaby, a Jamaican who married an American and raised his family in Hartford, Connecticut
His daughters, called the “Swaby Babies” while growing up, have been playing side by side on Jamaica’s back line. They also played together on Jamaica’s 2019 Women’s World Cup team, which was the Reggae Girlz’ first time in the tournament.
“They are interchangeable, so I think it’s a fantastic thing for us,” Donaldson said.
Chantelle, 24, said after Jamaica’s opening draw against France in Sydney that she “never really ever thought in a million years” that she’d play alongside her older sister on the World Cup stage.
Against France, the Swaby defense was in full effect. The sisters helped to hold Les Bleues scoreless, despite France’s 14 shots on goal and 12 corner kicks.
“This started off in the backyard,” their father said of their sibling partnership. “They’re always together. I think that also plays a part in the way they’re playing for the country right now.”
When Jamaica captain Khadija Shaw received her second yellow card in the 92nd minute against France, Allyson, 26, took a turn with the captain’s band on her arm, serving in place of Shaw for Jamaica’s following match against Panama.
Selecting Allyson as the interim captain proved to be the right choice for Donaldson. In the 56th minute, midfielder Trudi Cardi sent a corner into the box from the left side, finding Allyson, who finished with a header.
She reacted with a leaping fist pump as she ran toward Jamaica’s bench.
“We all felt it,” said Scott Ferguson, the sisters’ soccer coach at William H. Hall High School in West Hartford. “To see Allyson express it when she is such a focused player, that was just wonderful.”
The Paris-Saint Germain defender earned the first goal of her international and World Cup career to deliver Jamaica’s first-ever Women’s World Cup win.
Allyson first met Ferguson in 2010, when she tried out for the high school girls soccer team. Chantelle followed her older sister’s path, trying out for the team as a freshman when Allyson was a junior.
Ferguson put both Swaby sisters in the starting lineup as high school freshmen. They started out as defenders but shared time as forward to generate offense for the team.
“I still remember the first time that she played a ball,” Ferguson said of Chantelle’s first game. “Crossfield, and it was just this beautiful kind of laser delivered ball right to the feet of someone about 40 yards away.”
The sisters’ journey parted in college. Allyson played at Boston College while Chantelle was at Rutgers. In 2019, their paths converged again, when they each earned a call-up to the Women’s World Cup squad.
“Words can’t explain,” their dad said. “It was exciting to see the list.”
Four years later, the two are making history, side by side.
“It’s been great for the last four years, just having them and just watching them grow as sisters,” Donaldson said.