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Part of the larger Virgin Islands chain located in the eastern Caribbean Sea, the British Virgin Islands were first named by perennially lost nitwit navigator Christopher Columbus in 1493 during yet another one of his accidental voyages to the West Indies. Upon glimpsing the islands for the first time he bestowed upon them the rather fanciful title of “Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virgins” due to their inviting tranquillity, and also because he was rubbish at naming things, just ask the ship’s cat “Kitty McKittyface.” The archipelago later fell under English and, bizarrely, Danish control until the latter sold their share to the United States thus creating the two separate entities – i.e. the British and US Virgin Islands – that we know today. In spite of this Anglicization, the three largest islands of the BVI still retain their original Spanish names which, when translated, don’t really make a whole lot of sense. Tortola, for example, means ‘turtledove’, a species not readily found in the Caribbean while ‘Anegada’ (flooded) is obviously, demonstrably above sea level and ‘Virgin Gorda’ (fat virgin) has, at least to my knowledge, never hosted a Star Trek convention.
For a while the territory managed to eek out an existence on the revenues generated from sugar cane plantations, but following the abolition of slavery, as well as the carnage wrought to crop fields by numerous hurricanes and the mass escape of remaining slaves (often involuntarily if their masters forgot to tie them down during a storm), it became clear that new sources of income needed to be explored. Today the islands rely almost entirely on the tourism dollar and, more controversially, the ‘financial service industry.’ Essentially this is just a euphemism for offshore banking, and the BVI has fast become a popular tax haven for helpless, downtrodden corporations who would otherwise be shamefully bullied into paying their fair share, as well as luckless millionaires forced into a life of only semi-luxury and down to their last two yachts.
Speaking of obscenely wealthy irritants; yes, Richard Branson does own two islands in the BVI and no, the name of the country as a whole has nothing to do with his Virgin business brand, although if you thought this you clearly weren’t paying attention to the first paragraph of this post. While Necker Island serves as Richard’s (can I call him Dick?) personal residence, Mosquito Island apparently has a far stranger fate in store, namely as an experimental eco-resort where ring-tailed lemurs and other non-native species will be introduced and allowed to run amok in what we can only hope is the beginning of a Dr Evil style descent into madness culminating in the poor creatures having frickin laser beams attached to their heads. At least if it doesn’t take off Sir Dickard can focus on some even more outlandish projects, such as blowing up wealthy tourists in space and getting one of his trains to fucking run on time.
The British Virgin Islands Football Association are one of FIFA’s more recent affiliates having only gained membership as recently as 1996 and, with a population of just 30,000 – most of whom would much rather be windsurfing, playing cricket or plundering employee pensions – the national team were always on a bit of a hiding to nothing. Inevitably, even swimming amongst the small fry of the Caribbean they’ve ended up eaten alive a few times, most gruesomely by the Dominican Republic, who ran up a score of 17-0 during a 2010 Caribbean Cup qualifier, and non-FIFA member Martinique who struck 16 without reply in the same competition two years later. Even tiny Montserrat – a team so firmly ensconced at the arse end of the world rankings they might as well claim squatters’ rights – gave the BVI a 7-0 tanking in 2012 despite having never previously won a full international match. Now that’s gotta hurt.
Looking for success in such circumstances is clearly going to involve a very loose interpretation of the term, but here goes. Following elimination on away goals against the Bahamas after both legs of their preliminary tie were drawn, the BVI could technically claim to be the only country to enter the 2010 World Cup and remain unbeaten for the whole campaign. Tenuous yes, but hey, those straws won’t clutch at themselves. The team also served as an early stepping stone for the career of future Porto and Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas who, at the tender age of just 21, took over as technical director before ultimately moving on to greater things at Porto, slightly better things at Chelsea, and managing Spurs.
Anyone who doubts the wondrous shirt hunting skills of my friend Nick need know only this; the man has now managed to import BVI national shirts direct from their F.A. on two separate occasions when, previously, just once would have been considered miraculous. Mine came from the second batch where, for some reason, the badge is now printed on instead of stitched and the template itself is ever so slightly different, lacking the yellow side slashes as featured previously.
Regarding the badge, Saint Ursula has clearly seen better days here. Compared with her depiction on the national flag’s coat of arms (see top of this post) this more closely resembles someone you might find yourself in charge of while playing an NES game from the late eighties, possibly in an adventure titled “Casper the friendly Florence Nightingale cosplayer.” Overall perhaps we should just be grateful the BVI players bother wearing kit at all, especially given the team’s official nickname the ‘Nature Boyz’, which suggests a hardcore group of fundamentalist nudists hellbent on playing as nature intended, a tactic that, if nothing else, would at least put an abrupt stop to any grabbing and holding at corners.