Dominica

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The country

Consisting of a single volcanic island in the East Caribbean Sea, Dominica was first sited and named in 1493 by history’s favourite stray Italian Christopher Columbus after the wayward wally happened to blunder past on a Sunday (Domenica in Italian) while testing his somewhat iffy theory that the quickest way of reaching the Indian subcontinent was to sail as far away from it as possible. Ultimately, the eejit explorer didn’t drop anchor and actually venture ashore, lucky really as the indigenous Carib tribes were openly hostile, brazenly cannibalistic and not really in the business of bartering and trading with outsiders, unless of course you had something delicious to offer, in which case they’d probably bite your hand off.            Fun fact; Dominica today still retains a 3,000 strong community of native Caribs who have thankfully dispensed with their grisly dietary habits and are now a tourist attraction themselves, even though you imagine their more nervous guests will still find something to get paranoid about.

As for the remainder of the population, most Dominicans (around 85%) are descended from African slaves shipped over during the height of the Transatlantic trade, first by France and later by their British colonial rivals who, despite dispatching an invasion force numbering less than 300, still managed to coax the island’s French garrison into immediate surrender as they were ill-prepared, poorly equipped, low on morale, and also, let’s face it, because they were French. Independence from the UK was finally achieved in 1978, just in time to greet Hurricane David, a Category 5 storm which flattened several thousand homes, triggered deadly landslides and sent into the air things that really had no business being airborne, such as palm trees, lampposts, livestock and Dominicans. Disaster struck again in September 2017, when the even deadlier Hurricane Maria made landfall over the capital Roseau, prompting mass evacuations from coastal areas, save for a few foolhardy souls who remained unmoved – in every sense of the word – on the grounds that “god would protect them”, clearly not stopping to consider exactly who might be sending the hurricane in the first place.

Violent acts of ‘you know who’ notwithstanding, Dominicans typically enjoy longer stints on planet Earth than most. The island has a knack for producing centenarians – i.e. folk aged 100 years or more – and, at the time of writing, boasts 27 such venerable coffin dodgers, though naturally this statistic is extremely precarious to the point where there were actually more than 30 of them when I started writing this paragraph. Grandest amongst Dominica’s grandmothers was allegedly a Mrs Elizabeth “Ma Pampo” Israel, who claimed to be 128 years young upon her very timely passing in 2003. Admittedly, this was never officially verified by the Guinness Book of Records on the grounds that her baptism documents weren’t backed up with an appropriate birth certificate, meaning that while she was demonstrably alive and being dunked headfirst into a font of holy water in 1875, there was deemed to be insufficient evidence that these events occurred AFTER she was born. Errrrrrm, OK then.

Right, enough shenanigans, let’s talk footie. Dominica first entered World Cup qualification in 1998 and have subsequently participated, however briefly, in every campaign since. The ‘Parrots’, as the national team are nicknamed, have even wandered beyond the opening preliminary round on a couple of occasions, showing themselves to be a slight cut above the tiniest Caribbean minnows such as the Bahamas and British Virgin Islands, before usually succumbing to the first decent, half-decent or even quarter-decent opposition they encounter. What the Dominicans definitely weren’t ready for however, was a tie against a legitimately top-class international side, but that’s exactly what they got during the 2006 qualifiers when drawn against Mexico – at the time ranked 4th in the world – who proceeded to put 18 goals past the shell-shocked islanders across two legs, the first of which finished 10-0 and remains Dominica’s record defeat to this day.

You do feel that, if there’s to be any tangible improvements in the future, they’ll most likely involve scouring the UK for professional players of Dominican extraction who might be willing to throw their lot in with the national team. Certainly, plenty of their comparably small island neighbours such as Grenada, Barbados and Antigua & Barbuda have managed to lure the likes of Jason Roberts, Emerson Boyce and Dexter Blackstock to their respective causes over the years, so it’s definitely possible. In fact, former England striker Jermaine Defoe’s father hailed from Dominica, and while that ship hasn’t so much sailed as it has crossed the ocean, arrived at its destination, been tugged away and broken up for salvage, this at least demonstrates exactly what could be unearthed with a little effort, and by effort I of course mean five minutes spent browsing Wikipedia.

The shirt

I have the wonderful Katarina from Lika Sports to thank for enabling me to get my hands on this beautiful rarity in 2015. Prior to this, any Dominica shirts that found their way into other people’s collections were always, without fail, match worn or match issued versions that doubtless required a great deal of time and money to first persuade the player or collector in possession to part with it, and then to figure out exactly how to send an international money transfer to such an obscure, far flung corner of the globe. So, when these beauties abruptly emerged onto Lika’s website, I  quickly contacted their offices in Oakville, Canada to enquire into the feasibility of having one shipping to the UK, and found a positive response from the aforementioned Katarina who, it must be said, could not have been more helpful, friendly, polite and, well, Canadian.

Question; Just how many furious parrots on one shirt is too many? If you answered anything then you’re wrong, you can never have too many. Seriously though, the bird’s head worked into the fabric on the shoulder is a nice touch and adds to this shirts appeal, of which it already had plenty what with its being bright green, yellow and louder than a banshee in a blender. Finally, just to clarify, the bird itself is the endemic Sisserou Parrot, a national emblem of Dominica that appears on the national flag as well as their F.A. logo and is one of the few species incapable of speech which, given how utterly pissed off he looks here, is perhaps for the best.

Just remembered where I’d seen him before. Good old Viz.