Home 2015 – Admiral
The tiny island of Aruba sits a mere 18 miles off the coast of South America and is part of the Dutch Caribbean, a cultural sphere which splices together the traditionally laid back vibe of the Netherlands with the practically comatose West Indies pace of life to produce a largely horizontal society whose chief ambition is to one day make it out of the hammock, perhaps even as far as the deck chair.
Prior to 1986 Aruba formed part of the Netherlands Antilles alongside Bonaire and Curacao, with the trio dubbed the “ABC islands” by a naming committee who were evidently in some sort of major rush to get home that night. Even the name of the capital Oranjestad (Orange Town) has the air of having spilled from the distracted mouth of someone prompted to come up with a Dutch sounding name whilst battling a particularly viscous level on Tetris.
Long before Aruba’s white sands felt the clunky tread of clogged feet, the island was inhabited by Arawak people who emigrated from Venezuela having decided the stinky, black substance they kept finding under the ground was, and always would be, worthless (solid, solid move there chaps.) Initial Spanish explorers, impressed by these natives’ lofty frames but fearful of (unfounded) rumours of cannibalism, christened it “Island of giants” then did a runner after the crafty Arawaks, having cottoned on to their uneasiness, planted huge beanstalks all around the island and adopted “Fee-fi-fo-fum” as their national anthem.
During the later Dutch period, Aruba became something of a regional backwater deemed unprofitable for plantations and the economics of the slave trade. Consequently, the country today carries around far fewer colonial scars than other Caribbean nations, a fact evident in the national slogan “One happy island.” All that pent up aggression has to pop out somewhere though, most notably in the grisly “burying of the rooster” harvest festival which involves a live cockerel buried up to its neck while blindfolded locals try and decapitate the poor fellow with whatever implements come to hand. It’s a bit like the Mexican pinata game, only instead of sweets you get eyeballs and skull fragments. Mercifully, the ritual has now been watered down, with the bird replaced by a rubber version or just a flag which, although undoubtedly more humane, does little for the flavour of the subsequent casserole. Speaking of food, Arubans clearly aren’t afraid to dabble in some unconventional cuisine. Popular island dishes include iguana (which tastes like chicken), sea turtle (which tastes like iguana) and of course chicken (which tastes like iguana stuffed with sea turtle.)
Aruba became a full FIFA member in 1988, two years after splitting from the Dutch Antilles, although the country has had its own separate F.A. since 1932. As is the case with most Caribbean islands, the national team have struggled to make any sort of impact even at a regional level, having failed to qualify for a single Caribbean Cup while World Cup qualifiers are normally a mere exercise in damage limitation. It’s enough to make someone want to take their ball and go home, something the Arubans actually did for four years between 2004 and 2008, neglecting to organise a single international match and unsurprisingly nosediving to joint last in the world rankings as a result.
More encouragingly, Aruba recently made an historic appearance in the third round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers for Russia 2018. This achievement should be taken with a hefty dose of salt however as they received a bye through the first round and only defeated Barbados in the second phase after their opponents, having initially triumphed 3-0 on aggregate, were discovered to have fielded an ineligible player leading to the tie being awarded instead to the Arubans.*
*The original tie saw Barbados win 2-0 away and 1-0 at home, however the second leg was changed to a default 3-0 Aruba victory and therefore 3-2 on agg. This begs the question what action would FIFA have taken had Barbados won the first leg 3-0? Would they have had to arrange a deciding match or would they have awarded the second leg 4-0 instead so as to ensure the Barbadians disqualification?
The one word which springs instantly to mind when describing this shirt is booooooooooring!!! A damn shame considering the potential here. Take an iconic manufacturer such as Admiral, add a country with a hybrid of Dutch and Caribbean heritage and you should have something akin to a Jackson Pollock piece that’s had a boozed up reveller add his stomach contents after a regrettable late night encounter with a dubious mobile eating establishment. Instead we get this baby blue and yellow number which, although quite cute as a colourful combo, was clearly designed by someone about as adventurous as an agoraphobic snail who’s just moved into a rough neighbourhood populated entirely by Frenchmen making yum yum faces. To date this remains – to my knowledge at least – the only replica Aruba shirt ever produced so I guess it’ll have to do.