Antigua & Barbuda

Home 2014 – Peak

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The country

Located in the east Caribbean Sea on the cusp of the Atlantic Ocean, the nation of Antigua & Barbuda consists of the titular twin islands which lie roughly 39 miles apart amongst the Lesser Antilles chain.                                The islands were first spotted in 1493 by terminal wally Christopher Columbus who, in keeping with his baffling habit of bypassing pristine island paradises in favour of the swampy, bug-infested coast of Central America, sailed merrily on past but not before naming the islands “Antigua” (The Ancient) and “Barbuda” (The Bearded) in a subtle dig at his mother-in-law following one too many demands that the explorer “get a proper job.”

The country eventually fell under the British colonial yoke, serving as a hub for the transatlantic slave trade, a major sugar plantation and exporter of some of the world’s most contradictory produce including bitter orange, (used in the manufacture of sweets), sweet potatoes (used in savoury dishes) and the famous black pineapple (which, true to form, is in no way actually black.) Since independence in 1981, the economy has largely centred around the holiday trade and, according to the local tourism board, Antigua boasts “365 beaches, one for each day of the year.” Seeing as how 2016 has been a leap year, presumably the locals had to spend one day at a car boot sale or something.

The biggest tourist bucks though roll in via beach weddings. In 2014 Antigua was named ‘Best place to get married’ as couples from around the world flocked to the gleaming white sands to say “I do” or, more accurately, “you’ll do.” Of course all of this has had a bearing on the country’s population, which is around 91% black, 4% mixed race and 1.7% white, with the remainder made up of Indians, Chinese, bridesmaids, flower girls, rubbish DJs and drunk uncles attempting Gangnam Style.

Sports wise, it should come as no surprise that the super chillaxed Antiguans’ greatest passion is Cricket, a game where the spectators frequently burn as many calories as the players and probably more if they’re slightly fidgety. Despite this penchant for balls on wood, the people can still find a place in their hearts for good old footie. The national team exist in a sort of international limbo however, being one of the stronger of the Lesser Antilles nations – often victorious against neighbouring islands such as St Lucia and Dominica –  yet many miles behind North America’s big guns such as Costa Rica, Mexico and the US.

The chances of Antigua ever reaching the World Cup finals are therefore pretty much set to zero. The ‘Benna Boys’ did make an historic appearance in the third qualifying round for Brazil 2014 though, ultimately succumbing to the (relative) might of Guatemala, Jamaica and the United States but not before their performances had shot them up to an all-time high FIFA ranking of 83. Key to this climb has been the recruitment of English-born striker Dexter Blackstock, and whether the Antiguan F.A. can capitalise on the team’s  momentum may well depend on their ability to dig out more English born professional players with ancestral ties to the islands.

The shirt

This shirt by Peak is beautiful, just beautiful. The bright shade of yellow, the black, red and blue stripes down one side and the effortlessly cool national flag cropping up twice. Splendid. Now I just might  be the only collector (in the UK at least) who DIDN’T acquire his Antigua shirt – directly or indirectly – via legendary shirt collector Nick Warrick. Instead, upon hearing that my mum was heading to the island with her Antiguan partner in 2014, I tentatively asked if she could keep an eye out for a shirt for me. And wouldn’t you know it, she came up trumps. Best of all, it only cost 80 Caribbean dollars which, when run through the currency converter, amounted to less than £25. Score.

One last thing; For reasons I can’t even begin to guess, Peak decided to produce this shirt in five different colours, i.e. yellow, red, black, white and blue which neatly encapsulates all the colours of the flag but seems a little excessive. Who knows, perhaps former Mexico goalkeeper Jorge Campos is still designing shirts somewhere. That would explain everything.

 

 

 

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