Since the early 2000s the dominant trend in Caribbean football was to bloat the national teams with foreign-born players in a bid to make themselves more competitive. Jamaica, Haiti, Bermuda, Barbados, and most of the smaller island-nation teams have brought a large number of foreign-born players in CONCACAF football. Jamaica and Haiti, for instance, participated in the last Copa America 2016 with nearly no players directly from their respective national leagues. Apparently, this trend is changing fast as we have witnessed the return of Caribbean players coming back in great numbers.
Jamaica, the team usually credited with initiating the trend in the 1990s, has brought to this year's Gold Cup an astonishing 11 current local players. For the first time in many years, most of the Jamaican players hail from Jamaican football. As of today, the team is doing fine with one victory over Curacao and a draw versus the mighty Mexico.
Martinique, a French territory, is probably the best example of the return of Caribbean players. The Martiniquais pulls not less than 18 players directly from their local league! Just like Jamaica, Martinique is doing fine so far needing just a draw versus Panama to move to the quarterfinals. In fact, only one player from the Martinique team was born in France and just two play club football in France. If you recall, Haiti played most of the WCQ and the entire Copa America 2016 with 8 France-born players!
French Guyane, another French territory in the Caribbean, also demonstrates a preference for players with direct connections to their national football. Very few players in the roster were born abroad and 8 of those are current local players.
Curacao is the only Caribbean representative at the Gold cup with a roster dominated by foreign-born players. The small Caribbean team has more foreign-born players than any of the other 11 teams. Did that give them an advantage? According to the scores, not really. Curacao is actually eliminated after losing its first two games. However, the presence of a large number of foreign-born players in Curacao does not mean the Curacaons neglect or reject their local players! The tiny Curacao still features 3 local players compared that to Haiti's zero local player at the Copa America! Small island nations like Curacao will always be on the lookout for foreign imports to boost their national teams despite local efforts to produce quality players.
The foreign-born player frenzy in the Caribbean has been a disaster for local football developments in the sub-region of CONCACAF and has nearly eliminated the Caribbean flair which is characterized by athleticism and individual skills. Tacticians like Charles Herold Junior of Haiti have consistently been overlooked for less talented ones from abroad. Had Trinidad and some other countries embraced the trend earlier, the Caribbean might have never discovered players like Russell Latapy and numerous others who popped up from everywhere in the region.
Martinique versus USA was a beautiful match between two truly CONCACAF teams. That was a showdown between American football (soccer) and Martiniquais football. Although the Martiniquais eventually lost the match 3-2, that game shows why Caribbean players are making a strong comeback in their national teams.
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