Sports Gazette

The sports magazine brought to you by the next generation of sport writers

‘We play football too’ says Dominican Republic history makers after qualifying for 2024 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup

The Dominican Republic, known for its beautiful beaches and baseball players, is on a mission to build a football reputation after the nation qualified for their first ever senior major tournament.

Team DR / Credit: Sedofutbol

Team captain Lucia Leon plays her club football in England for Watford. She couldn’t have dreamed of captaining a Dominican Republic national football side, let alone leading her team at a CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup.

Lucia said: “Back when I used to go to the DR (Dominican Republic) as a kid, I never used to see anyone playing football unless it was the Haitians.

“I used to look at it and think there’s so much potential here. I felt like I could help the players, the girls.

Lucia Leon plays as a winger for her country / Credit: Sedofutbol

“Before I joined the national team, I was on holiday out there and I went to an U15 football camp in Santo Domingo and there were so many girls out there and they were looking at me like I was from another planet. And I was like no, everything I’ve achieved is possible.”

Brianne Reed has gone from NCAA Division I football in America to an international footballing career, currently playing in Portugal’s top flight. Her and Lucia are two out of the three players in the squad that currently play in Europe.

The Dominican defender Brianne said: “Baseball rules the land and although kids play football, I don’t think they aspire to be professional footballers.

“I hope it puts us on the map internationally and inspires kids to want to play for the national team.”

Brianne continues: “I also know that we have the national volleyball team, who are the queens of the Caribbean, but wouldn’t it be great for girls to be able to say, ‘shall we play volleyball?’ or ‘shall we play soccer?’”

Lucia Leon (left) and Brianne Reed (right) joke in training / Credit: Sedofutbol

Dominicans such as Winibian Peralta and Yomerci Brito are players who grew up on the island, and went against the grain to play football. Now, it has paid off. The nation, ranked outside the world’s top 100 by FIFA, has secured qualification to the inaugural CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup after beating Guyana 1-0 in the preliminary round.

The 12-team competition determines the continental champions of North America, Central America and the Caribbean, with four guest teams from CONMEBOL the South American Football Confederation. This historic Dominican Republic side will make up Group A with established footballing nations USA, Argentina and Mexico in the tournament starting later this week, February 21st.

Lucia said: “We need to be seen. Our flag needs to go up there. They’re the top priorities to make sure that football is known in the country, that the girls are known and that the country is playing in these big tournaments.”

Brianne said: “I hope what we’ve done is just the beginning, it’s not just that we qualify for the tournament and then there’s silence for years. I don’t want that. I want there to be a steady build from what we’ve created here.”

Qualification was achieved despite the country not even having its own women’s league. For a steady build to follow, football will need to develop further in the country.

Lucia said: “I know a teammate who was panicking after we beat Bermuda, because she had nowhere to play in preparation for the preliminary game. She was looking in Ecuador, Costa Rica. Why does she have to go to another country? Because there is nothing to play for in the DR.”

Dominican Republic beat Bermuda 2-0 in their final group game, with goals from Alyssa Oviedo and Mia Asenjo, to top their qualification group and set up a preliminary match with Guyana.

Lucia said: “You see Dominicans playing in Bolivia, playing in Spain. We can do it. Our love, our passion and our discipline is in our blood, we just need the resources.

“There is a very long way to go and we need to have the right people in charge of things, who want women’s football to grow in the DR.”

This has not always been a guarantee. Former President of the Dominican Republic Football Federation Osiris Guzman, was banned from all football-related activity for 10 years in 2018 after he was found guilty of breaking rules related to bribery, accepting gifts and conflicts of interest.

However, the nation’s highest scoring active player Alyssa Oviedo said: “I started playing for the DR in 2017 and the change between 2017 and now is just absolutely insane.

“The most impressive and satisfying thing is just seeing the improvement in conditions, from the federation, from CONCACAF and in general.

“Things are really competitive now too. Practice is really competitive and no one is guaranteed a starting spot. That was not the case five years ago. I had shown up three days before a game and I knew I was starting so I think that level of competition is really pushing everyone and that’s what’s gotten us to this point.”

Although this is the first senior team, men or women, that has qualified for a major tournament, the youth teams have seen some recent success. After a remarkable run to the 2022 CONCACAF Men’s U-20 Championship final, the U-20s qualified for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup and 2024 Olympics in the process.

Embed from Getty Images

Dominican Republic vs Italy at the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup

In a further display of commitment to football and its youth teams, the Dominican Republic will be hosting the 2024 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup later this year. This will be the first time the Dominican Republic has ever hosted a FIFA tournament.

But Lucia had questions surrounding it. She asked: “It’s amazing. I just find it crazy that there is no women’s U-17 Dominican league. So they have to do trials in order to see the girls, to choose who represents the DR in the World Cup.

“Are you just going to grab them and meet them one month before? And then have them for the World Cup and then what?”

As the national teams improve, it is hoped that the fanbase and support will grow too. Brianne said: “We play in the Félix Sánchez Olympic Stadium, it’s huge and we’ve just got little spots here and there in the crowd, who are usually people’s families.

“It’s upsetting because I can see how much potential we have and I want other people to see that, and to not only support us, but support a team in their country that potentially has the ability to do big things.”

Brianne continued: “Me and the girls have talked about Dominican influencers and celebrities, and how do we get them to know about us? Because as soon as Cardi B puts one tweet about the Dominican national team, things change.”

Fighting for the flag is what has helped this side succeed and for some players, has been the highlight of their footballing careers.

Alyssa explained: “Everyone’s there because we have so much pride for the country and want to represent, even though some of us weren’t born there, or haven’t lived over there.

“We all carry that same pride of representing our parents, even our grandparents or our family history. We are all here because we want to put the country on the map, and let people know we are a soccer country.”

Alyssa played her college football for the Vermont Catamounts and her younger sister Jazlyn is also capped for the Dominican Republic / Credit: Sedofutbol

On her national team experience helping her career move forward, Alyssa said: “If you look at my profile, being a national team player is what stands me out the most since I went to a small American soccer school.”

“It has been the most rewarding and best experience of my career hands down,” says Brianne while talking about representing the Dominican Republic.

Lucia concurred: “It’s been a life changing experience for me, in a very positive way.”

Just over half of the squad currently plays in America and it is the four-time World Cup winners that will be the DR’s first opponents in the Gold Cup. There is some way to go to catch opposition of this calibre, but if this is what the nation can achieve without a domestic league, it is an exciting prospect to think of the potential with further investment and commitment to women’s football in the country.


  • Eduardo Tansley

    Trying to tell stories he would want to read, whether that's Dominican football or British basketball, Eduardo has interviewed sports people from CEOs to athletes on the rise. @tansleyeduardo