Bermuda

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The country

The British overseas territory of Bermuda can be hard to place for many. Often erroneously associated with the West Indies, the islands actually lie in the Atlantic Ocean some 665 miles off the coast of North America and a good 1,100 miles north of the Caribbean Sea, although given their laid back vibe, exquisite beaches, history of piracy and a consumption of rum that would make even Jack Sparrow think twice before getting behind the wheel of the Black Pearl, I guess it’s an easy mistake to make. The first known European to wash up on Bermudian shores was Spanish explorer Juan De Bermudez (for whom the islands are named) who, following his initial 1503 discovery, thoughtfully returned twelve years later to let loose a contingent of feral pigs and goats, leaving any subsequent castaways with a source of food and absolutely no excuse for not being able to get a date on a Saturday night.

Despite this ready availability of bacon, milk and, ahem, “companionship” Spain never attempted settlement of Bermuda, essentially granting colonial dibs to Britain instead with the first permanent Bermudians arriving – albeit inadvertently – in 1609 when the English flagship Sea Venture limped ashore following a messy encounter with a hurricane. The territory has remained stoically British for 400 years since, an influence apparent today in the people’s love of Cricket, their tendency to cook with, and while under the influence of alcohol and various anglicised place names like Hamilton, St George’s and the intriguing ‘Non-such Island’, a title which poses all manner of existential quandaries. Naturally, being so far from old mother Blighty, Bermudians have also developed a few quirky cultural traits to call their own, particularly the now synonymous Gombey dancing rituals. For the uninitiated, this involves local men swathing themselves in outlandishly colourful garb, creepy masks and preposterously tall peacock feathered hats to strut their funky stuff, all the while play-fighting with tomahawks, whips and bows and arrows.                No women though, that would just look silly.

Of course I can’t conclude a post about Bermuda without addressing the one thing (apart from those natty shorts) that everyone thinks of when they hear the country’s name; the Bermuda Triangle, also referred to as the Devil’s Triangle. Stories of bizarre occurrences afoot in this patch of water (stretching between Bermuda, Puerto Rico and Florida) have existed for centuries, and even Christopher Columbus is said to have noted a strange fireball in the sky when sailing in the general vicinity although, taking into account his general cluelessness, there’s every chance he was simply looking at the sun. Countless ships and aircraft have supposedly vanished into thin air (or, more likely, deep water) when passing through the accursed triangle, with theories ranging from the plausible (magnetic anomalies, violent weather) to the outlandish (alien abductions, wormholes in time) to the downright moronic (unruly teenagers from the lost city of Atlantis commandeering the missing vehicles and going for a joyride.) All of this is quite obviously nonsense. It’s fairly common knowledge that the statistics have been massaged, exaggerated or inaccurately reported over the years for the sake of sensationalism and experts generally agree that the area is no more treacherous than any other expanse of water. Indeed, the biggest mystery regarding the Bermuda Triangle may be how the wretched Barry Manilow song of the same name ever became a hit.

So, on the assumption that any visiting national teams haven’t been waylaid by delinquent Atlanteans, slung back to the 1940s or carted off for a thorough probing by E.T. and chums, they might find Bermuda’s finest a surprisingly tough nut to crack. In spite of their country’s diminutive size, the ‘Gombey Warriors’ have always been a significant cut above the CONCACAF region’s true minnows, dishing out aggregate hammerings to Montserrat (20-0) and the British Virgin Islands (14-1) in World Cup qualification as well as scoring shock victories over much larger football nations, some of whom – El Salvador, Haiti and Trinidad & Tobago – have actually played at the finals.

Undoubtedly the greatest Bermudian ever to lace up a pair of football boots would have to be the former Manchester City striker Shaun Goater who, despite playing for the club at its lowest ebb, (including a season slumming it in the third tier) built a cult following amongst the City faithful including the famous “feed the Goat and he will score” song.                                                  At international level ‘the Goat’ was evidently very well nourished, bagging 32 goals for Bermuda in just 36 caps, a remarkable record for any international striker let alone one playing for such a minor country.        Little surprise then that in summer 2000 Goater was awarded the freedom of Bermuda and June 21st is denoted ‘Shaun Goater Day’ on the island.      No, really.

The shirt

Bermuda shirts, like most of the smaller CONCACAF nations, are pretty hard to nail down and I was fortunate enough a few years ago to snap this one up on ebay when a fellow collector put many of his rare national team collection up for sale. At the time I recall being slightly disappointed as this seller had several other countries from my wanted list available, however these went for silly prices in a bidding frenzy that I wasn’t willing to match and I ended up winning just Bermuda and Guyana. Since then I’ve not really seen any authentic Bermuda for sale anywhere so seemingly this was a bigger catch than I’d initially thought.

The design is simple yet pleasing on the eye, with the only mild annoyance being that the largely unheralded US manufacturers Score Sportswear have chosen to screen-print the badge within the material which, as I alluded to in my Anguilla post, always makes it feel cheaply produced. Not much else to say, a properly stitched badge would, in my eyes at least, turn this from a decent effort to a really sweet shirt but I suppose it’s asking too much for them to employ someone who can sew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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