- First female ever appointed as team manager for Barbados
- Cadijah Mars is accompanying the team in their World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Anguilla
- “I’ve always considered myself a role model”
The date 8 March is a special day for women around the world as it marks the celebrations of International Women’s Day. It was established in 1911 in the period before the First World War as part of the fight for equal rights, the right to vote and emancipation for female workers. The purpose of this day is to commemorate women’s cultural, political and socio-economic achievements and to raise awareness of issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights and violence against women.
For Cadijah Mars, 8 March 2021 will always be especially memorable because it was then that she was named as the first ever female team manager of the Barbados national side, an appointment that fills the 24-year-old with great pride.
“I work for the federation and was familiar with working with the national team,” Mars told FIFA.com. “I’m the point person inside the association who works with all the national teams. I do travel preparations and handle all the administration and paperwork. Basically, I make sure everything is good and I give the coach the time to focus on on-field activities, the more technical and tactical stuff.”
When the original team manager was unable to travel with the squad, she seized the opportunity with both hands. “The coach [Russell Latapy] and I have a very good relationship, we work really well together,” she continued. “So he came to me and said, ‘the team manager is unable to travel. Do you know who my next option is?’ I asked him who it was and he said, ‘I want you to travel with the team.’ Of course, I said yes. This is really big for me to do this at such a young age. It shows me, that he sees a lot in me. A lot of potential. This is where I want to be, this is what I come to do.”
The former Barbados women’s national team goalkeeper also knows exactly what she is doing. She made her senior international debut at the age of 15 in Puerto Rico and later received a football scholarship, studied and completed her bachelor’s degree in sports science.
“I had high hopes that one day I could be part of the management or a big national team,” Mars said. “After I finished my degree I started working for the federation and in 2019 I was appointed as secretary to the general secretary. I grew tremendously as a person and learned to be disciplined, as well as learning a lot about the game and administration. I learn a lot every day. The coach and the president in particular have supported me throughout my whole journey. They came to me and told me I should be the team manager. A woman has never held this position before. For me it’s a dream come true.”
The reaction to her appointment has been positive for the most part, and the few negative comments have been of little concern to the 24-year-old. “That’s just the way the game is,” she said with a shrug.
It is slightly challenging to have women holding positions in football. Obviously, football is male dominated. This is the 21st century and we need to normalize equality in everything we do. We still have problems with people thinking that men are superior in football. But we women can do the same things men can do.
Mars does not feel under any pressure in her role as she is accustomed to working with the team. “I’m always two steps ahead, the coach can confirm that,” she said with a grin. “I’m a player myself and I know what I expect from a team manager. That makes it easier for me. The guys treat me with a lot of respect. They know that I understand the game and that I know what I’m doing.”
That is hugely significant considering the importance of the challenge facing Mars and the team, who played their last matches in January 2020 against Canada. The Bajan Tridents go up against Panama on 25 March and Anguilla on 30 March in their opening qualifying fixtures for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. And the new team manager is approaching the task full of optimism.
“The coach is experienced and has a really good influence on the guys,” Mars said. “They train very hard, do a lot of tactical stuff and prepare for the games. The coach has great knowledge and shares it with the players. We were unable to play in Barbados due to the COVID restrictions, so we came to the Dominican Republic, where we’re having a two-week training camp. The players train twice-a-day and work really hard. I think that will pay off in these upcoming games. Panama have already played at a World Cup so they’re quite experienced. But we’re here to play not to give away points. We’ll play to our best and I think we can upset some of the teams in the group and come out on top of it!”