One of the goals of this website is to shine a light on aspects of football that don’t get the recognition they may deserve. This is the first interview, a Q&A session, on the site. We conducted this over email and the answers provided have given us a beautiful insight into Caribbean football, increasing our knowledge and hopefully yours, too.
One of the main things we want to achieve with this site is to a spotlight onto certain football cultures that aren’t mainstream. Why does the Caribbean offer something special which people can get on board with?
I think part of Caribbean football’s allure is that it’s a bit of an exotic mystery. I’ve been following it for nearly five years and there is still an awful lot to discover. It’s kind of within its own little world but there are some fascinating stories attached which are so interesting to learn about. I love following these smaller islands like Montserrat, Anguilla and Sint Maarten, exploring the social and human side of football in these places and bringing stories to life. I dedicate a lot of my spare time to Caribbean football because I’m passionate about it, I want it to grow and for more people to take it seriously. It’s not for everyone, sure. But the Caribbean is a fascinating, vibrant and often misunderstood part of the planet. I personally believe that Caribbean football can become a real power in the future. If you’re reading this, then why not try to catch a game sometime and you never know, you might just get hooked just as I did as a 15-year-old.
Is there any bright talent coming from the Caribbean that we could expect to see in some of the bigger leagues in years to come?
There are several up-and-coming teenagers who are still playing in their respective countries and surely it won’t be too long before they earn a professional contract abroad. Below is merely a selection.
Alex Marshall | 18 | Jamaica. A left-footed winger/attacking midfielder. One of the biggest stars of schoolboy football in Jamaica. Recently went on trial at German club St Pauli.
Keston Julien | 17 | Trinidad & Tobago. A left-back. Very impressive at last year’s CONCACAF U-17 Championship and recently went on trial at AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands.
Jabari Mitchell | 19 | Trinidad & Tobago. An attack-minded central midfielder. Captain of the national U-20 team and recently went on trial at Boavista in Portugal.
Javorn Stevens | 18 | Antigua & Barbuda. A striker. Captain of the national U-20 team and already capped at senior level. Very highly thought of in Antigua & Barbuda.
Nyrone Winter | 17 | Saint Lucia. A winger who can also play up front. Has won the Saint Lucian Junior Footballer of the Year award on two occasions. Currently on a two-week stint in England where he’s going to be training with both Preston North End and Bradford City.
Ronaldo Damus | 16 | Haiti. A striker. Made his senior debut against Costa Rica on Friday night. First came onto the scene at last year’s CONCACAF U-17 Championship.
Mackenson Cadet | 16 | Turks & Caicos Islands. Highly rated midfielder who plays for the National Academy in the Turks & Caicos Islands. Went on trial at Nottingham Forest in 2015.
There is plenty of good if a little raw, talent in the Caribbean but there aren’t always the structures in place to maximise that talent. There aren’t always the opportunities for talented youngsters to show what they can do on a bigger stage. That is beginning to change slowly but surely. If you haven’t already, feel free to check out CaribYoungStars, a project profiling the brightest young talent in Caribbean football that I inaugurated last year.
In your opinion, who would you say is the best talent to come from the Caribbean?
It’s too hard to narrow it down to specifically one player. You can’t ignore Lilian Thuram who comes from Guadeloupe. Then there’s Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids who both come from Suriname. Raheem Sterling comes from Jamaica. Trinidad & Tobago’s Dwight Yorke has to rank up there purely for what he achieved at Manchester United. His compatriot, Russell ‘Little Magician’ Latapy, was arguably more gifted but never truly fulfilled his potential in Europe. Bermuda’s Clyde Best deserves a mention as does Haiti’s Emmanuel Sanon. Curacao’s Ergilio Hato was an unbelievably good goalkeeper in the 1940s/50s and could have easily starred in Europe but he turned down the likes of Real Madrid and Ajax to stay locally with his family. The fact is that the Caribbean has contributed significantly to world football whether directly or indirectly because the diaspora is so vast. Yet, unfortunately, the region doesn’t always receive the recognition it warrants.
What are the views on football in the Caribbean? Of course, you have places such as Brazil and Argentina where it is basically a religion.
Football is generally very popular but has always had to battle against the colonial legacy of cricket and also track + field which is firmly ingrained in many sporting cultures across the islands. In the Anglophone Caribbean, cricket probably edges football in terms of popularity. But that’s not to say that in places such as Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago football isn’t taken seriously because it is. In the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, baseball tends to be the number one sport because of past American influences on Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. There are many Dominican baseball stars who play in the United States, for example. In the French-speaking and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, football ranks as the number one sport. I think that many Caribbean people look at football as an art form, a way of expressing themselves. I believe there is a culture, though, which lends heavy focus to the individual and how the individual entertains the crowd with the ball over the collective context of the team, which has its positives and negatives. Scrimmage (small-sided football using reduced space) is widely played across the islands, particularly in Jamaica. Caribbean fans in general are very passionate and demanding – mistakes tend to be scrutinised and immediate success is the goal. The passion definitely shines through, though.
Out of the international teams, which team offers the highest quality football and has the better chance of causing an upset against some of the bigger international teams?
The traditional top four is Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti and Cuba – the only Caribbean countries to have gone to the World Cup finals. Out of those Trinidad & Tobago are currently playing the best football and will be the Caribbean’s only representative at the Hexagonal which begins in November later this year. But what we have seen in recent times is the growth of other nations such as Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Martinique, Antigua & Barbuda, Curacao, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, Suriname, Grenada, Guyana and the Dominican Republic who are challenging the upper bracket of Caribbean international teams. I think Curacao have a very interesting project going on and they’ve been assisted by the expertise of Patrick Kluivert, whose mother comes from the island. Saint Kitts & Nevis are a rising force and the head coach Jacques Passy is doing a stellar job there. There is always scope for an upset or for the underdog to triumph; we’ve seen that time and time again in football. As former Trinidad & Tobago manager Leo Beenhakker once said: “In football, 2 and 2 is almost never 4. Most of the time it is 3 or 5.”
Now, I want to get your thoughts on Jack Warner and co and their involvement in Caribbean football and Trinidad and Tobago itself. How have they and their actions influenced the game in these places?
We have to remember that Jack Warner presided over Caribbean football for 28 years. He called the shots for nearly three decades. So the decisions that he made have undeniably had a direct influence on the Caribbean game and how it is today. Warner causes division in his native Trinidad & Tobago – some people believe he changed things for the better and others believe he changed things for the worse. For me, some of Warner’s traits are a microcosm of what is wrong in Caribbean football administration. This doesn’t apply to everybody but I feel a lot of the time people at the top are only looking after themselves. They are taking care of their ego and making selfish decisions instead of making decisions on behalf of the betterment of football. Caribbean football administrators need to realise and appreciate that they are in a privileged position of authority and responsibility. With this comes power which shouldn’t be abused for personal gain. Caribbean football needs leadership. Not dictatorship. They are two very different things.
A very interesting look into Caribbean football and what a new watcher can expect. It also gives us aspects to look out for. Thanks to Nathan Carr of The Home Of Caribbean Football for answering our questions. You can check his site out here: thehomeofcaribbeanfootball.com