Skip to content
Curacao develops into a football nation
After losing its first game in the 2016/17 Scotiabank CFU Men’s Caribbean Cup, Curacao (pictured) won seven straight games.
Advertisement

SAN DIEGO, California -- Children growing up in the Caribbean nation of Curacao most often choose a baseball glove over a football.

Football, though, is not far behind.  Curacao is producing more talent, which is spreading across the planet and strengthening the national team.

Curacao opens its first-ever CONCACAF Gold Cup on Sunday, when it faces Jamaica in Group C at Qualcomm Stadium.  It is a rematch of the 2017 Scotiabank CFU Men’s Caribbean Cup final won by the Curacaoans on June 25.

An autonomous country that is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curacao is a windward sliver of an island about 40 miles off the northern coast of Venezuela.  At 171 square miles, it is about twice as large as Brooklyn, and with a population of about 150,000, it is a bit larger than Bridgeport, Connecticut.  In football terms, it wants to become a colossus.

With players earning a living in some of the world’s top leagues, Curacao has quietly become a force in the Caribbean.  It now wants to make a statement on the global stage.  Players are sprinkled throughout European first, second and third division clubs, even some in Japan.  Most play in the Netherlands, where they are eligible to compete for that country’s national team.  But since Curacao is a FIFA sanctioned nation, it becomes an attractive choice to many.

“When you are young, you are always dreaming of playing in the national team of the country and I always watched the national team of the Netherlands because I was born there and most were 100-percent Dutch,” said Curacao striker Gino Van Kessel, who was the joint-top scorer in the Caribbean Cup with seven goals.  “When I played in the youth system, there were some guys who got a call up to the junior teams, but they never called me up.”

“When I got a call from Curacao I said directly yes.”

Aston Villa standout Leandro Bacuna made the same choice and has become a key cog in the Curacao machine.

“If you look at the Dutch national team, maybe you can get more out of that, but if you look at us now, I think I made the right choice,” the 25-year-old said.  “You meet great teams in different parts of the world.  And in the Caribbean part, you go to beautiful places.  It’s just different.”

Curacao became a different football nation even before the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010.  Now, like Aruba, it accepts military protection from the Netherlands and its citizens still have access to Dutch universities and scholarships.  That also helped lure players like Bacuna and van Kessel to play for the island national team.

“For us, it might be easier to get to a World Cup here with Curacao,” said Cuco Martina, who played last season for Southampton in England.  “I still think we are not at out top level because it’s hard to play as you want to play here because every club has a different system different coaches and different players around styles.  But our team is growing together.  I think we are getting stronger every time.  We're becoming a football nation not just baseball.”

 
icon-dropdown CB_Linked_Icon_Arrow CB_Linked_Icon_Arrow CB_Linked_Icon_Arrow echllogoeps Created with Sketch. Group 18 Copy Created with Sketch. 53079FE7-D159-40A0-8A83-26281B0D3D33 Created with sketchtool. 976DC860-943B-432F-9E9C-CB9AC395B97F Created with sketchtool. 172C4F03-2B22-49FE-A880-A4C1985B19F7 Created with sketchtool. 53079FE7-D159-40A0-8A83-26281B0D3D33 Created with sketchtool. 976DC860-943B-432F-9E9C-CB9AC395B97F Created with sketchtool. 172C4F03-2B22-49FE-A880-A4C1985B19F7 Created with sketchtool. 45E49ECC-5769-44F4-97EA-EDE23E5CB428 Created with sketchtool. CC731668-0119-48B2-B401-BACA731EA471 Created with sketchtool. 0CCDF29C-1F7C-4F46-921A-EC230ACEE372 Created with sketchtool. 9EE80E93-DA55-44A3-BB86-719DDC115D67 Created with sketchtool. 86A6C4DD-D877-4C22-A527-8B9666AA9DD0 Created with sketchtool. 9EE80E93-DA55-44A3-BB86-719DDC115D67 Created with sketchtool. 42E886A7-7224-4FDC-BBEB-01976002C351 Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. 40C8A19E-A06F-4836-ABD8-C5AE68BC33DB Created with sketchtool. 763B01E1-3D00-402A-B0C3-1DD729BBA531 Created with sketchtool. 644E21E0-3CB1-4F6B-B321-22391C0CD429 Created with sketchtool. team-logo / WIN Created with Sketch. team-logo / PW Created with Sketch. team-logo / LOST Created with Sketch. team-logo / PL Created with Sketch. 0CCDF29C-1F7C-4F46-921A-EC230ACEE372 Created with sketchtool. 033561FA-5AC5-424E-BFCB-752595AE0B20 Created with sketchtool. 45E49ECC-5769-44F4-97EA-EDE23E5CB428 Created with sketchtool. CC731668-0119-48B2-B401-BACA731EA471 Created with sketchtool. 0CCDF29C-1F7C-4F46-921A-EC230ACEE372 Created with sketchtool. 9EE80E93-DA55-44A3-BB86-719DDC115D67 Created with sketchtool. 86A6C4DD-D877-4C22-A527-8B9666AA9DD0 Created with sketchtool. 9EE80E93-DA55-44A3-BB86-719DDC115D67 Created with sketchtool. 53079FE7-D159-40A0-8A83-26281B0D3D33 Created with sketchtool. 976DC860-943B-432F-9E9C-CB9AC395B97F Created with sketchtool. 172C4F03-2B22-49FE-A880-A4C1985B19F7 Created with sketchtool. 45E49ECC-5769-44F4-97EA-EDE23E5CB428 Created with sketchtool. CC731668-0119-48B2-B401-BACA731EA471 Created with sketchtool. 9EE80E93-DA55-44A3-BB86-719DDC115D67 Created with sketchtool. 86A6C4DD-D877-4C22-A527-8B9666AA9DD0 Created with sketchtool. 9EE80E93-DA55-44A3-BB86-719DDC115D67 Created with sketchtool. 42E886A7-7224-4FDC-BBEB-01976002C351 Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. 40C8A19E-A06F-4836-ABD8-C5AE68BC33DB Created with sketchtool. 763B01E1-3D00-402A-B0C3-1DD729BBA531 Created with sketchtool. 644E21E0-3CB1-4F6B-B321-22391C0CD429 Created with sketchtool. 033561FA-5AC5-424E-BFCB-752595AE0B20 Created with sketchtool. 45E49ECC-5769-44F4-97EA-EDE23E5CB428 Created with sketchtool. CC731668-0119-48B2-B401-BACA731EA471 Created with sketchtool. 763B01E1-3D00-402A-B0C3-1DD729BBA531 Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. 40C8A19E-A06F-4836-ABD8-C5AE68BC33DB Created with sketchtool. 763B01E1-3D00-402A-B0C3-1DD729BBA531 Created with sketchtool. 644E21E0-3CB1-4F6B-B321-22391C0CD429 Created with sketchtool. 7CB4E955-9512-49F4-B03B-933CF03CA2FD Created with sketchtool. 53079FE7-D159-40A0-8A83-26281B0D3D33 Created with sketchtool. 976DC860-943B-432F-9E9C-CB9AC395B97F Created with sketchtool. 172C4F03-2B22-49FE-A880-A4C1985B19F7 Created with sketchtool. 45E49ECC-5769-44F4-97EA-EDE23E5CB428 Created with sketchtool. CC731668-0119-48B2-B401-BACA731EA471 Created with sketchtool. 0CCDF29C-1F7C-4F46-921A-EC230ACEE372 Created with sketchtool. 9EE80E93-DA55-44A3-BB86-719DDC115D67 Created with sketchtool. 86A6C4DD-D877-4C22-A527-8B9666AA9DD0 Created with sketchtool. 9EE80E93-DA55-44A3-BB86-719DDC115D67 Created with sketchtool. 42E886A7-7224-4FDC-BBEB-01976002C351 Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. C38CE427-9814-4B47-91C9-66896A6EB2BE Created with sketchtool. 40C8A19E-A06F-4836-ABD8-C5AE68BC33DB Created with sketchtool. 763B01E1-3D00-402A-B0C3-1DD729BBA531 Created with sketchtool. 644E21E0-3CB1-4F6B-B321-22391C0CD429 Created with sketchtool. 033561FA-5AC5-424E-BFCB-752595AE0B20 Created with sketchtool. 033561FA-5AC5-424E-BFCB-752595AE0B20 Created with sketchtool. Icons/Search/1000 F3916FC0-768E-4027-A1D5-CC66110459CF Created with sketchtool. Play Artboard 1 Icon / Social / Android@3x Created with Sketch. icon-dropdown icon-dropdown Created with Sketch. CB_Linked_Icon_Close CB_Linked_Icon_Close Check Check F896540F-C96F-4488-888D-5ECB022F43CE Created with sketchtool. Icons/Attachment/1000 Created with Sketch. CB_Linked_Icon_Arrow CB_Linked_Icon_Arrow Icon / Social / iOS@3x Created with Sketch.