“I had no doubt she could help us,” Blaine said in a phone interview. “It was a good fit from her first camp. She plays like she’s been here for years.”
Forging a connection
Beverley Sweatman has always done her best to maintain a link to her home country, often cooking up flavorful island cuisine such as jerk chicken and fried plantains for her family. She had long entertained her four children with tales of her youth, from her school days in Kingston to idyllic summers spent with her grandmother in the country parish of St. Mary when snack time meant picking ripe mangos and bananas right off the tree.
The Sweatmans visited the island once around Christmas about 10 years ago, but the cost of travel for six made that pilgrimage a special treat rather than a regular occurrence. When the youngest child, Marlo, found her way back to Jamaica through soccer, Beverley made sure to arrange a special trip to St. Mary after one camp, so Marlo could meet several uncles and cousins for the first time and see the country in a way most tourists will never experience.
Beverley finally saw her daughter take the field in a Jamaica uniform in March during World Cup qualifying in Panama. The Reggae Girlz went 0-2-1 and were eliminated from contention for a berth in the world tournament, which the United States won in September.
“We had the [Jamaican] flag flying and shaking like crazy,” Beverley Sweatman said. “It was very exciting. A dream came true.”
Choosing a flag
Marlo Sweatman might soon have to make a choice that will impact her international future. In June, she participated in team camp with the United States U-18 national team at the Olympic Training Center in California. The invitation came after a coach saw her playing with Jamaica.
In the spring, Sweatman plans to attend camp in Jamaica as the team begins preparation for the U-20 Caribbean Cup, but she should know by January if she will be asked back to play with the U.S. U-20 team at its next camp.
Sweatman, who turns 18 in December, has a full year left to play at the U-20 level, but the next step in the Jamaican system is the senior national team, and Blaine said the midfielder has the potential to make the jump. Generally, FIFA does not permit players to switch the country they represent once they’ve been capped at the highest level.
Sweatman chose to play collegiately for the Seminoles, in part, because of the program’s history of allowing players flexibility to compete internationally. She dreams of playing in the World Cup, which would be much more likely playing for the United States, but with her standing in the U.S. program far from certain, she’s also proud to continue to represent Jamaica.
She’s grown comfortable in her mother’s homeland, and the teammates who were once strangers are now among her best friends. She stays in touch with the Jamaican-based players through text messaging, sometimes sending care packages with candy and D.C. souvenirs.
“With Jamaica, I know I’m already a key player,” Sweatman said. “With the U.S., I’d be just another player. . . . I never even considered playing with [Jamaica] until it happened, and now [the other players] pretty much treat me like family. They’re like my older sisters.”