Home 2014 – Beltona
Situated in the south Caribbean Sea, just forty miles from the coast of South America, the island of Curacao is an overseas territory of the Netherlands notable for its flamboyant colonial architecture and eponymous ‘Curacao liqueur’, that curiously blue concoction responsible for all manner of garish delights on a cocktail menu, as well as some of the most colourful vomit streaks ever to grace the side of a late night taxi. The country’s name – it’s pronounced “cure a sow” incidentally – was first coined by Portuguese sailors, who dubbed it “Ilha da Curacao”(Island of Healing) following the discovery that scurvy-ridden crew members deposited ashore were often restored to full health upon their retrieval, a phenomenon commonly attributed to the native Arawak Indians who would frequently assist the ailing castaways by supplying them with an abundance of vitamin C rich citrus fruits. Naturally, such hospitality couldn’t be tolerated. Subsequent decades saw many of the local tribes decimated, enslaved and uprooted to other islands by European settlers, thus proving the old adage that when life gives you lemons, you probably shouldn’t share them with any sickly light-skinned folk you happen to find washed up on your beaches.
Despite the overtures of some heavy colonial hitters like Great Britain, France and Spain, the island instead fell under Dutch rule, although centuries as an important trading post and, more regrettably, as a convenient hub for the Transatlantic slave trade have made today’s Curacaoans a pretty diverse bunch. Their eclectic ‘Papiamento’ dialect not only incorporates words of African and Amerindian origin, but also borrows heavily from Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese and French, all of which are also widely spoken, leaving British tourists spoilt for choice when it comes to which language they can mangle beyond recognition before falling back on their excellent pointing skills and intimate knowledge of Anglo-Saxon swear words. This lively mix is also responsible for some interesting cultural quirks. Many islanders regularly chow down on iguana meat in the belief that is boosts sexual performance (well, of course), while the entire country has a somewhat concerning obsession with Chichi idols, i.e. voluptuous women scantily clad in lollipop/sugar rush attire which are supposed to represent a protective auntie, but instead resemble something you might find lurking on a dubious VHS tape stashed away in Willy Wonka’s sock drawer.
Aside from a plenitude of white sandy beaches and superb snorkelling spots, Curacao’s chief tourist attraction is probably the capital Willemsted with its strikingly colourful colonial era buildings and iconic Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, which used to charge a toll of two cents to anybody wearing shoes, prompting wealthy skinflints to remove their footwear in order to avoid paying the fare, while poor folk, who couldn’t afford any in the first place, would often borrow a pair just so they could cough up and maintain a sense of pride. Pretty much everything wrong with humanity in a nutshell there.
As a football nation, the Curacaoans only appeared on FIFA’s member list as recently as 2011. Prior to this the country competed as part of the Netherlands Antilles national team alongside other Dutch Caribbean possessions including Bonaire, Sint Maarten and tiny little Saba with its brilliantly named capital ‘The Bottom” (bit of a shit hole apparently.) Following this union’s disbandment, Curacao, being by far the most populous of these islands, were permitted to step into the void and inherit the defunct state’s FIFA membership, records and world ranking in much the same way that Russia and Serbia took over the mantles of the USSR and Yugoslavia respectively after both those countries were consigned to the dustbin. Under their old guise, the Antilleans achieved two third place finishes at the CONCACAF Championship (i.e. the forerunner to the CONCACAF Gold Cup) in 1963 and 1967 – even beating Mexico 2-1 at the former – and also entered the qualifiers for every World Cup between 1962 and 2010, albeit without much success.
Since the country’s little re-branding exercise, Curacao have been making rather rapid progress, most conspicuously during last year’s Caribbean Cup where they walked off with the trophy following a shock 2-1 victory over tournament favourites Jamaica 2-1 in the final. This unexpected triumph also propelled the team to the 2017 Gold Cup finals in the USA* where, despite predictably losing all three group games and failing to score any goals, the margins of defeat against Mexico, Jamaica and El Salvador (2-0 in each) were certainly respectable, so there’s no reason to think their appearance at the finals will be a one off. Aiding these great strides further, Curacao’s Football Federation has become increasingly proactive in seeking out Dutch players of Caribbean birth or descent who might be eligible to represent the island. Considering the rapid demise of the Netherlands national team in recent years, exacerbated by the retirement of the Van Persie, Robben generation and a lack of top class young talent coming through to replace them, there’s perhaps never been a better time to convince young Curacaoan players to plump for their homeland over the diminishing returns offered by representing the “Oranje”, especially if they’re told there’s a free trip to the Caribbean in it for them.
*Quick acknowledgement to my friend and fellow collector Joe from Scotland who, when reviewing this exact same shirt in February 2015, predicted that we might see Curacao qualify for a Gold Cup some day. I’m sure even he wasn‘t expecting this to happen quite so soon though. See link below.
Yet another cracking shirt design let down by that bane of my existence, i.e. those darned cheap looking screen-printed badges. Are you honestly telling me that nobody at Beltona knows how to sew? Anyway, apart from that minor annoyance, Curacao have landed themselves some pretty smart looking kit here. The colour scheme is clearly inspired by the island’s flag, right down to the two white stars, and it’s also nice to see the country’s Papiamento dialect name “Korsou” crop up on the badge as opposed to the anglicised version that appears on the wikipedia page (see top of this post for a comparison.)
Many thanks are due to the undisputed king of national shirt collectors Mr Nick Warrick for bringing these Curacao shirts into the UK via his online shop (link below for anyone interested in rare and obscure international shirts), and also to my brother Simon for not even batting an eyelid when I asked him to buy me one for Christmas in 2014, despite him never having heard of the country before, or most probably, since. Oh, and yes, he does think I’m a bit odd.
Football shirt world online shop address http://www.footballshirtworld.co.uk/shop/