Caribbean Football - A poor man sport!

The sub-region of CONCACAF has produced some world class players like Emmanuel Sanon (Haiti), Russell Latapy and Dwight York (Trinidad), Marius Tresor and Jocelyn Angloma (Guadeloupe) just to name a few. Unfortunately football itself remains largely a poor man's sport. Very few Caribbean players can survive on earned income from playing football in the region. The richest leagues are those of Trinidad, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Dominican Republic but none can afford to pay a living salary to the players. At the international level, the competitions organized by the Caribbean Football Union are even poorer due to a lack of sponsorships.  

Football is very popular in the Caribbean especially in the French and Dutch-speaking countries like Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Suriname. It is often referred to as a 'religion' in those countries due to its large following. In the English side of the Caribbean, Trinidad and Jamaica has long established themselves as respectable national teams at the world level. In fact, those teams along Haiti have played some of the world biggest soccer powers like Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and Italy. The sport also remains popular in the Spanish-speaking countries like Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic where it commands a pretty big following despite being overtaken by Baseball in popularity.

Unfortunately this popularity does not translate into economic opportunities for local footballers. The champions of Caribbean Cup earned a miserable 40,000 USD according to the latest figures published by the CFU. Considering that Curacao is at the other end of the Caribbean, it is  a fair guess to say that the champions spent almost the entire prime money on travel fees alone! Some current Caribbean players in Europe make more than that per month!

Participating in the Caribbean Cup is very expensive since it often requires long costly flights to countries where the population is too small to even fill a third of 2000 seat stadium! Also, flying to the island next door is not always easy as flying from one place to the other usually requires transiting through a third country outside of the Caribbean. A Cuban team trying to reach Caiman Islands may have to first fly to Miami, Florida before catching a flight to its neighbor just a few miles away! The scenario is not different for Haitians trying to go to Jamaica despite that there are some sporadic flights between the two countries.

Economic disparities between the countries does not help. A Haitian team that is scheduled to play in Bermuda would need several thousand dollars more than what it would spend in Guyana. Therefore, it is often the governments of those countries that support the national teams. 



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