Words by Jesse Serwer
Four years ago, the hype in this part of the world—Brooklyn—was all about Trinidad’s Soca Warriors, then making their first ever World Cup run. T&T didn’t qualify this year, nor did any other Caribbean nation, but that doesn’t mean the region isn’t represented in this year’s tournament. Antilleans make up a key cross section of the French team’s lineup—much as they did when France reached the 2006 finals—while England’s lineup features players with roots in Antigua, Barbados and Jamaica. Here’s a look at some of the top Caribbean and Caribbean-descended players in this year’s Cup, plus a few more who’ve proven themselves on the world stage recently.
Without a doubt the most recognizable player of Caribbean heritage worldwide, Henry is the child of a Guadeloupian father and a mother from Martinique. Which, we suppose, makes him the ultimate Antillean of sorts, even if he was born in France. France’s all-time leading scorer may see his role somewhat diminished from 2006, when he helped lead Les Bleus to the World Cup finals, but the most hated man in Ireland will surely add a few more goals to that total in this year’s tournament.
A staple presence in the British tabloids, Cole recently led Chelsea to the Premier League title after missing most of the season to injury. Most of the the headlines he’s generated lately have been about his impending divorce from singer/X Factor judge Cheryl Cole, though.
Born in Lyon to parents from Martinique, Thierry Henry’s Barcelona F.C. teammate is part of a long line of Antillean defenders to play prominent roles on France’s national team. See also current teammates William Gallas and Nicolas Anelka, and newly retired Lilian Thuram.
Born in New Jersey to Haitian parents, the former New York Red Bulls and current Villareal C.F. striker has been one of the U.S. team’s most hyped players coming into the World Cup, and he lived up to it in Saturday’s game versus the U.K., coming thisclose to netting the game-winning goal in the 64th minute. Soca Warriors fans will remember Altidore from last April’s World Cup qualifier when he single-handedly outscored the T&T squad 3-0.
Defoe, whose mother comes from St. Lucia, recently scored five goals in a game on his way to becoming one of the Premier League’s top scorers in 2009/10. The Tottenham striker is expected to be one of the key offensive weapons for an English team with immense pressure on its shoulders.
John, currently playing for Crystal Palace in the Premier League, was the most pivotal player in the Soca Warriors 2006 World Cup run. He’s also T&T’s all-time leading scorer.
When he’s not suiting up for the English Premiership’s Bolton Wanderers or the Reggae Boyz, Gardner can be found in the studio making some reggae of his own. A Rastafarian, he’s recorded tunes with teammate Pepe Goodison as well as Erup, and runs his own record label, Heart of Love, with Goodison. On the field, Gardner is best known as one of the breakout players from Jamaica’s ’98 World Cup team.
Before sustaining a groin injury in Saturday’s game versus the U.S. that could keep him sidelined for the remainder of the tournament, King, Defoe’s Tottenham teammate, was tipped by some as a potential X-factor for England.
An 18-year veteran of the European leagues from Paramaribo, Suriname who’s played the last eight seasons at world superpower AC Milan, Seedorf isn’t representing Holland in this year’s World Cup. He is, however, providing commentary on it for the BBC.
The only other Jamaican national currently playing in the English Premiership besides Gardner, Fuller, who began his career with Tivoli Gardens in the Jamaican Premier League, has led Stoke City in scoring—and arrests—for the last four years.