Barbados, where giving back is part of the cultural fabric
Barbados is the latest stop on our Global Game tour
The country is the most easterly of the Caribbean Islands
We explore its history with football and its hopeful future
The flag of Barbados features the trident symbol in the middle of it, however the lower part of the trident is missing and broken off. This is deeply symbolic as it represents the country’s independence and its complete break from being a colony.
Just as the island at large is growing from strength to strength as an independent nation so is its football culture. Like many Caribbean nations and territories, cricket has a long and beloved history in Barbados but football is not far behind. The Barbados Football Association (BFA) was founded 1910 and became officially affiliated with FIFA in 1968. The BFA's motto is 'Better Football for a Better Life'
"Football in Barbados is very important," said BFA General Secretary Edwyn Wood. "It is an integral part of society and at the moment is only rivalled by cricket and motorsport as a spectator sport. It is used as a past time to address some social issues and reach out to youth in a positive way."
According to Wood, there are approximately 102 playing fields across the island. There is also a very active schools league system and the association hosts two youth competitions from the U-9 age level all the way up to the U-17s.
There is a rich history of club football on the island, with the most successful club being Weymouth Wales. Other top clubs include the Empire Club, Brittons Hill, Everton, Notre Dame and Pride of Gall Hill to name just a few.
"Notably these club have emerged from what are considered poorer communities, but they have managed to produce and attract players of immense qualities to represent them," said Wood.
There have not been many professional players produced in Barbados and to date there has been one homegrown English Premier League player in Gregory Goodridge, who played for Queens Park Rangers in the 90s.
Although the Bajan Tridents, the nickname of the senior national team, have yet to qualify for a major international tournament, their chances of doing so in the near future have been helped by the development of the Concacaf Nations League, which provides more opportunities for regular competitive matches for the national team.
The Bajan Tridents also boast an FA Cup winner among their ranks. Emmerson Boyce is one of the most famous players to represent Barbados and he is best known for captaining the Wigan side that defeated Manchester City and lifted the 2013 cup in front of over 80,000 at Wembley Stadium.
Boyce has since started his own foundation aimed at developing football at all levels on the island, including the women's game. "I think there are a lot of talented players here who may not have the access to all of the coaching available to them," said Boyce.
"That's where hopefully I come in. We want to develop the coaches. There's a lot of talent, especially when it comes to girls' football. It's all about passing on my experience and knowledge to help develop the coaches and the players on the island, so it's exciting times."
Giving back is clearly a part of the DNA of Barbados. The senior men's national team have made countless donations to clothes drives, for the disabled and for those who have been put out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is a very special feeling contributing to someone’s life," said captain Rashad Jules. "For the guys, we would like to leave our legacy, not only on the field but off the pitch as well. Any way that we can contribute positively to someone’s life, we are very grateful to do something like that."
Barbados' World Cup qualifying group - Group D
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic
Matches scheduled to begin in March 2021: Full schedule here
With the efforts of the BFA, the national team, Boyce and many others in support, Barbados are growing from strength to strength and it will be exciting to follow their progress.
"We have some great talent regarding the girls’ football," said Boyce. "I always wanted to do a program that was long-lasting and not short-lived.
"I always said I would, and so I went out and found the right people to produce this program, and the main aim of all of us is to make it durable and give something back to Barbados."