Sunday, March 22, 2015

WIBD CONCAF Round 1: Anguilla

Shirt badge/Association crestIn keeping with my fondness for righteous underdogs, it's time to consider the wee minnows in our own backyard.  Or in this case, the dolphins in our own backyard

While the US has only a slight chance of hoisting the World Cup, their odds are decidedly better than their neighbors in the North American Federation, I mean, we're not Haiti, or Suriname, or Canada, and we are most certainly not the lowest seeded squad in the contest: Anguilla.

The Three Dolphins (who might be smarter than the Three Lions of England, but are also less likely to win a bar fight) are ranked 208th in the World after going almost three years without a match (a 1-0 loss to the British Virgin Islands). But recent form suggests they might have a better future ahead, after taking two matches against those self same British Virgins (Note: There's got to be a better demonym than that...oh Virgin Islanders of a British persuasion...that's better) in the last month as a tune up for their qualifier against Nicaragua.

Still, this is the World Cup, and Anguilla's never won a qualifying match. They haven't scored a goal against CONCAF opponents in a meaningful game like this since 2002, and have been dusted by rivals by a total of 28-0 in their last six matches. Their highest honor lately was making my list of 11 cool looking federation badges.

Girdon Connor (#2, Left)
Normally statistics like that don't matter, I mean, squads turn over, especially in a decade worth of matches...but...well...this is still Anguilla, and they're still a nation sparsely populated by footballers, so much so that 36 year old Girdon Connor (who has been on the squad since 2004) is still their top performer.

Facing all this, coach Ryszard Orlowski (a Polish refugee living in Pennsylvania who helped coach Nepal before taking over Anguilla) remains optimistic.  "We’ve now and winning is contagious. Play our football and we will succeed.” Orlowski may have a point--after all, while Nicaragua has a squad filled with professionals, and consistent access to international competitions, so did Sri Lanka*.

Win or Lose, the Dolphins will keep playing, keep working, keep improving, and keep living in Anguilla. That's a pretty excellent way to live your life, all things considered.

*Note: "So did Sri Lanka" may become the rallying cry of every minnow in the wake of Bhutan's stunning may call "Trademark" on that.

No comments: