Jamaica women’s national team forward Cheyna Matthews is grateful for the unexpected series of events that provided her an opportunity to play on the world’s biggest stage for the country of her mother’s birth. And she’s about to participate in the Women’s World Cup for a second time.
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Jamaica originally approached Matthews when she was in college, but she had dreams of representing the United States at the time. The federation came calling again ahead of the 2019 World Cup. Matthews was recovering from the birth of her first child and would not be able to help the team qualify. It managed to do so without her — becoming the first Caribbean nation to ever qualify for a Women’s World Cup — so Matthews joined the squad for the World Cup, and started two of the three group-stage games.
When she reflects on her journey, the 29-year-old views it through the lens of the faith in God that has sustained her throughout her career.
“From what I’ve read and prayed on in the Bible, life won’t look the way we want it to,” she said in a feature for Sports Spectrum Magazine’s Fall 2019 issue. “There are things Jesus would have liked to happen differently. … Throughout my career, I have hung on to this thought: If I was to stop being blessed today, the Lord has done more than enough for me.”
College was a formational time for Matthews. She began at Vanderbilt University and transferred to Florida State University, where she helped the Seminoles win a national championship. The Washington Spirit took her with the seventh overall pick of the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League Draft, and she arrived in Washington D.C. with her life fully surrendered to the Lord.
“It wasn’t until I experienced the uncertainties of college, transferring to a new college during the spring of my sophomore year, that I was finally able to make my faith my own,” Matthews said in the magazine feature. “It was then that I truly gave myself to God. In 2016, when I was entering into my rookie year in the NWSL, I was baptized. It was a perfect time to start my career and new life with Christ, giving myself fully to Him.”
College was also where she met her husband, current NFL free agent and former Vanderbilt star Jordan Matthews. The two became friends during their time at Vanderbilt and reconnected early in their professional careers. They started dating and were engaged six months later. They were married in February 2018 and now have three boys; Cheyna sat out the 2018, ’20 and ’22 seasons after giving birth.
From the very start, the foundation of Cheyna’s and Jordan’s relationship was their shared faith.
“It was the biggest deal for us — our faith,” she said in the magazine feature. “And it still is. It’s what we built our relationship on from the beginning. People are always asking what’s so different about us, and it’s that Jesus Christ is at the center of everything we do. We seek the same source.”
Matthews currently plays for the Chicago Red Stars and has 81 games of NWSL experience with three different teams, making her one of the most accomplished members of a Jamaican squad that features multiple college players. The team is in Group F alongside Brazil, France and Panama. It faces France in its opening game Sunday at 6 a.m. ET. The top two teams in the group advance to the knockout stage.
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As she prepares to take the field for some of the biggest games of her career, Matthews is embracing the love and grace of Christ.
“I am content if things don’t turn out the way I plan,” she said in the magazine feature. “I don’t see myself as a perfectionist. Being open to growth is so important, but if you are a perfectionist, it might be easy to slip into the thought that you have it all figured out. Truth is, we are imperfect humans and need Jesus. It’s the most beautiful thing about the Gospel to me.”
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