Will others follow Jocelyn Angloma in swapping international allegiance?
There may be an old adage in sport stating that “one man does not make a team” – but one player has had a massive influence on football in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.
As a French overseas department, Guadeloupe is ineligible to join FIFA and, therefore, the only international outings for the national side (known as the Gwada Boys ) come in the Caribbean Championship and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. As a result, past players such as Marius Tresor and Lilian Thuram – who were both born in Guadeloupe – opted to play for France and went on to represent the national side with great distinction.
However, in 2006, another former France international decided it was time to make a representative stand for his homeland.
Jocelyn Angloma was born at Les Abymes in Guadeloupe and went on to appear at Euro 92 and Euro 96 with Les Bleus. A Champions League winner in 1993 with Marseille, his career at international level was disappearing when, in 2000, a new administration at the Ligue Guadeloupeenne de Football (LGF) began recruiting French players with parents or grandparents from the archipelago.
A five-year gap was needed before anyone who had played for France could feature for Guadeloupe, but the last of Angloma’s 37 caps was long gone when he joined the Gwada Boys at the 2007 Caribbean Cup in Trinidad & Tobago, along with fellow former international David Sommeil.
“When Angloma decided to play for his country that was a good thing for the spirit of the Gwada Boys,” says Alain Soreze, who was head of the LGF delegation in Trinidad & Tobago.
“I felt this difference in the spirit of the group there with the presence of Angloma and also Sommeil.”
Guadeloupe finished fourth to qualify for their first Gold Cup finals, held later that year in the US – where they beat Canada 2-1 in the group stage and reached the quarter-finals. Here they edged out Honduras – who are at this summer’s World Cup finals – by the same score, before their run ended with a 1-0 loss to regional giants Mexico in the semi-finals.
Under coach Roger Salnot, they reached the semis once again, in 2007, at the renamed Caribbean Championship in Jamaica, where they finished third and qualified for another Gold Cup, once again in the US, in 2009. This time Guadeloupe dispatched Panama 2-1 and Nicaragua 2-0 to make the Gold Cup quarter-finals, before losing 5-1 to Costa Rica in front of 85,000 fans at Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium.
While France will remain the preferred choice for Guadeloupe-qualified players like Arsenal’s William Gallas, the Gwada Boys offer an opportunity that might not otherwise arise for lower-league players.
Defender Miguel Comminges left Guadeloupe at 15 for a playing career that took in Amiens SC and Stade de Reims in France. In 2007, he moved to England, where he joined Swindon Town and went on to make his Guadeloupe debut at the Gold Cup.
“I played in all the games,” says Comminges, who is now at Cardiff City. “We expected to do better in 2009 because we went to the semi-finals last time, but to be in the quarter-finals, and play against teams like Mexico and Costa Rica, who have been at the World Cup, this is good.
“We could have other big names but they prefer to wait and try to play for France. There are many big players in Guadeloupe as it’s the biggest sport on the island.”
There are 140 clubs and 18,000 players on Guadeloupe and the LGF runs four leagues and a cup, with CS Moulien the reigning title holders. However, due to cost, Guadeloupe’s champions eschew the CONCACAF Champions League and the island’s four best sides play in a tournament against clubs from the neighbouring French territory of Martinique.
But the ambitious LGF hopes to change that. Plans are afoot to enter the CONCACAF Champions League soon and the LGF have even made a surprise bid to host this year’s Caribbean Championship as the Gwada Boys chase their third consecutive Gold Cup appearance.