Players of Caribbean extract feature in Euros line-up
Published on 21 June 2021
Photo: Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the winning goal for England against Croatia in the 2020 European Championship at the Wembley Stadium, London, England, June 13th, 2021.
Caribbean nationals—at home in the region, transplanted across the diaspora and those of West Indian descent—are watching Europe’s flagship tournament, the UEFA European Championship, with pride. That is because players either Caribbean-born or of West Indian extract feature in the rosters.
These players have one thing in common— a colonial history and a wave of migration that brought their fore-parents from the Caribbean to the ports of Europe.
Post World War II, many Caribbean nationals, lured by the promise of better lives for themselves and their families, left their homes, denuded by colonialism, to assist in rebuilding war-torn Europe. A generation later, their children are making strides in football, representing several professional clubs.
Despite the top performances of early pioneers like Cyril Regis, Brendon Batson, and Laurence Cunningham, along with the consistency of Ian Wright, with more than 20 goals per season, Caribbean footballers only played European qualifying matches that saw England to the final stages. That changed in 1988 when the first footballer of Caribbean heritage played in the Euros. That was Jamaican-born John Barnes, who featured for England.
(L-R) John Barnes and Paul Ince
It would be another eight years, in 1996, before another player of Caribbean heritage would feature again. That was Paul Ince, who was also the first black player to captain the England national team. Ince, of Barbadian parentage, was a member of the England team that had a memorable run at the Euros but exited in the semifinal in a 7-6 loss to Germany on penalties kicks.
Patrick Kluivert prolific goal scorer for The Netherlands
Similarly, the prolific goal scorer Patrick Kluivert, whose parents hail from Curacao and Suriname, represented the Netherlands at the 1996 Euros making it to the quarterfinals. Kluivert went on to score 40 goals from 79 appearances for The Netherlands. While Lilian Thuram, born in Point-a- Pitre, Guadeloupe had a memorable Euros for France in 1996 as well. However, France exited the tournament at the semifinal stage after losing to the Czech Republic 6-5 on penalties. Thuram continued to have a great career with France, becoming the country’s most capped player with 142 caps and once held the record for the most appearances, 16, at the Euros. He now basks in another proud moment, as his son, Marcus Thurman, represents France at the 2020 Euros.
(L-R) Lilian Thuram France’s most capped player and son Marcus Thuram
The Caribbean also has kinship with French footballing legend Thierry Henry, who was born in France to a Guadeloupean father and a Martiniquais mother. Thierry won the 2000 Euros and went on to represent France in the next two editions, in 2004 and 2008.
Thierry Henry for French Football Legend
Joining Henry at the Euros in 2000 and 2008 was teammate Nikolas Anelka, who is of Martiniquais descent.
England, too, featured players of Caribbean descent in the Euros. Emile Heskey, with roots in Antigua and Barbuda, represented England in the 2000 and 2004, while Ashley Cole, who is of Barbadian descent, appeared for England in 2004 and 2012.
Fast forward to today and the 2020 Euros now has a squad of players with Caribbean ancestry taking the field. Six are in the England line-up, four in France and five in the Netherlands.
|Raheem Sterling||England||Jamaica||2016 & 2020|
|Kyle Walker||England||Jamaica||2016 & 2020|
|Marcus Rashford||England||St. Kitts & Nevis||2016 & 2020|
|Jadon Sancho||England||Trinidad & Tobago||2020|
|Kingsley Coman||France||Guadeloupe||2016 & 2020|
|Patrick Van Aanholt||Netherlands||Curacao||2020|