Despite being eliminated from the qualifying competitions for both the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup and 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, Grenada have managed to make their way up the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, climbing 20 places to reach 121 overall.
The small Caribbean nation of only 110,000 inhabitants also moved up five spots within CONCACAF to 16th, edging past other island nations such as Barbados, Aruba, Bermuda and Dominica. Traditionally known for its nutmeg production in the spice industry – from where the team’s nickname, Spice Boyz, is derived – Grenada has also produced successful international football stars such as Seattle Sounders stalwart Shalrie Joseph and Reading striker Jason Roberts.
Together, this duo helped Grenada to their highest-ever ranking (88) back in July 2009 after their first appearance at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. And while the likes of Joseph and Roberts have brought Grenada small but significant victories in the past to their tiny island nation, it was the up-and-coming Grenadian talent who were in the spotlight last month when the Spice Boyz claimed the 2013 Windward Islands Tournament trophy.
The Windward Islands, named for the collection of small countries in the southern Carribbean Sea that welcomed ships arriving in the New World as a result of the prevailing trade winds, consist of Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Vincent / Grenadines. The Windward Islands Football Association (WIFA) revived the tournament in 2013 after a twelve-year hiatus, the competition having been last won by Grenada in 2001.
The small tournament was originally intended to feature four of the six Windward Islands: Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and tournament hosts St. Vincent / Grenadines, with matches played at Victoria Park in Kingstown. Sadly, however, Dominica withdrew two days before the start of the competition when coach Kirt Hector and defender Norran Jno Hope were tragically killed in a car accident on their way to the airport to meet up with the rest of their team.
The WIFA decided to move ahead with the competition as scheduled to honour the memory of Hector and Hope, and the St. Vincent / Grenadines Football Association pulled together a ‘President’s XI’, consisting of players from St. Vincent's Premier League to round out the four-team tournament.
Coach Clark John’s side lost the first game of the competition 2-1 to the President’s XI, but Grenada fought back to beat St. Lucia by the same scoreline, setting the stage for a decisive final match against St. Vincent / Grenadines. Needing only a draw to secure the trophy, Denron Daniel, 23, scored in the 76th minute to give Grenada a 1-0 victory, clinching the championship for the Spice Boyz.
Grenada’s two victories en route to their first place finish in the tournament may have resulted in the Spice Boyz’ recent surge in the ranking, but the value of this competition for Grenada - along with their fellow competitors - came from the opportunity to evaluate current and future talent during a time in which these tiny island nations would otherwise have been idle.
Considering Grenada was bounced from Gold Cup and FIFA World Cup qualifying well over a year ago, the 2013 Windward Islands tournament provided an excellent chance to assess the next generation of Grenadian talent, who will one day look to challenge the bigger fish in the Caribbean Sea and continue to rise in the World Ranking.