Angloma’s dream for Guadeloupe 

  • The Global Game series turns the spotlight on Guadeloupe

  • Caribbean side famously reached semi-finals of 2007 Gold Cup

  • FIFA.com speaks to Gwada Boys head coach Jocelyn Angloma

Although Guadeloupe is a French overseas department and located more than 6,000 km from the Hexagon, this Caribbean archipelago has its own footballing infrastructure. Not affiliated with FIFA, it is nonetheless a member of the Caribbean Football Union and Concacaf. Indeed, it was at the region’s top tournament that Guadeloupe penned the finest chapter in their history with their epic adventure at the 2007 Concacaf Gold Cup.

The Gwada Boys secured a maiden participation at the event thanks to a fourth-place finish at that year’s Caribbean Cup and an evergreen Jocelyn Angloma. More than a decade after last representing France and already in his early 40s, the inspirational right-back turned back the clock by helping a team containing youngsters, amateurs and a scattering of pros reach the last four of Concacaf’s flagship event.

"It was a great adventure for us," the current Guadeloupe coach tells FIFA.com. "It was our first participation in this tournament so that was a step forward. We didn't envisage surviving the first round, so things worked out pretty well in the end. We even played against Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico... countries that compete at the World Cup! No one expected us to get that far, and it put us on the map in the Caribbean."

Players of Guadeloupe (Crédit photos : LGF)
13,000
The number of registered male players in Guadeloupe, with more than half between the ages of 5 and 17. The archipelago also has 1,000 registered female players and a women’s national team.
Dimitri Foulquier of Guadeloupe (Crédit photos : LGF)

Better than in Bleu

In the semi-final, the Gwada Boys held their own against Mexico for 70 minutes, before eventually going down 1-0. "For me it was huge – the emotions were even stronger than I’d experienced playing for France," says Angloma, whose final outing for Les Bleus was in their defeat against Czech Republic in the semi-final of UEFA EURO 1996.

The former Tricolore insists he has no regrets about his time playing for France. "I won a lot of caps and reached the highest level without going to a football academy. I did all that after arriving there as a 20-year-old from my native Guadeloupe, so how could I not be satisfied with what I achieved?

"At the age of 32, I decided to devote myself to my club, which at the time was Inter Milan, and retire from international football. I immediately became a huge fan of the French team and am as passionate now as I was in 1998. Seeing former team-mates like Zidane, Desailly and others win the World Cup was wonderful.

"I was proud to be replaced by Lilian Thuram as it was a natural transition. He flew the flag high for both France and Guadeloupe [where he was born] by becoming the most capped player in the history of the French national team."

Jocelyn Angloma, head coach of Guadeloupe (Crédit photos : LGF)

Targeting Gold Cup 2021

Two years after their 2007 feat, the Guadeloupeans got pulses racing again with a run to the quarter-finals of the 2009 edition, albeit without Angloma, who had gone to coach Etoile de Morne-a-l'Eau, the club where it all began for him as a teenager and who he later led to the 2015 Coupe de Guadeloupe. At the helm of the Gwada Boys since the end of 2017, the local legend endured a difficult start before finding his way.

"It's a big job to manage the players because we don't have that many who’ve had formal training," he explains. "The nucleus of the team are a fixed group of players who are based in Europe. We’ve managed to keep a certain balance between amateurs and professionals and work extensively with young people to give them the knowledge they need to perform at a high level," adds Angloma, who is doing his best to prepare for the 2021 Gold Cup qualifiers (2 to 8 July in Miami) amid COVID-19 restrictions.

In a bid to replicate the success of 2007, Angloma is hoping to recreate some of the same conditions. "The mindset is very important to me and my staff. We know how quickly a team can unravel if you don't pay attention to the state of mind of the players. We need healthy competition and solidarity, even if sporting criteria are what make the biggest difference," he concludes.

This article is part of the 'The Global Game' series, which focuses on football in remote places away from the spotlight. Next week, we shine a light on the game in Chernobyl.