hile there is much debate in
south-west London over whether
Roman Abramovich is losing
interest in football, there is plenty
of evidence in the Caribbean that
the Russian billionaire still loves
the game. In 2010, he donated a reported €3million
to help revamp the Stade de Saint-Jean on Saint
Barthelemy, and he stepped in again to help rebuild it
after Hurricane Irma devastated St Bart’s in 2017.
“We have the huge chance and advantage of
having a football fan who has one of the most
beautiful homes on our island and is the owner of the
Chelsea club,” says Jeremy Merlet, a consultant for the
Comite Territorial de Football de Saint-Barthelemy
(CTFSB), which runs football on the island.
Like most of France’s overseas possessions, St
Bart’s is a member of the French association and is
also affiliated to the League of Guadeloupe, which
is in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) and
CONCACAF but not FIFA.
In July last year the island staged a three-way
tournament with two British overseas territories,
losing 2-1 to Anguilla and 4-3 to the British Virgin
Islands. The target for St Bart’s now is to join the CFU
“This is the first time that members of the current
CTFSB have expressed such a desire,” adds Merlet.
“We currently depend on the League of Guadeloupe,
but we are seriously studying the opportunity to
embark on the CONCACAF/CFU adventure.
“It’s with this in mind that we are getting closer and
closer to neighbouring islands which are full members
of CONCACAF and CFU – to share their experience,
to make our football known and convince people of
the legitimacy of our approach and ambition.”
“We wish, like our neighbours, to participate
in larger competitions, locally, organised by the
legitimate CONCACAF federation.”
Merlet does, however, admit that St Bart’s is
“isolated” and dismisses the idea of participating
in the World Cup as “ridiculous and unrealistic”.
And there are some who also consider joining
CONCACAF as a potential risk as it would expose
St Bart’s to more experienced opposition and
the distinct possibility of heavy defeats. As Andy
Bickerton, who is the president of the British Virgin
Island’s FA, explains: “There are so many things for
young people to do today and losing matches by big
scores does not help with retention.”
Along with Saint Martin, Sint Martin and Anguilla,
St Bart’s have joined Bickerton in trying to resurrect
the old Leeward Islands Football Association (LIFA).
Formed in 1949, the LIFA sporadically staged
tournaments, but the last was in 2002. The latest
idea would involve staging junior tournaments in
order to give St Bart’s comparable opponents as the
island’s association looks to take the next step up.
Domestically, five teams – Gustavia, ASPSB,
Arawak, Diables Rouges and Team FWI – compete for
the local championship on St Bart’s. ASPSB, who are
a Portuguese sports association based in the capital
of Gustavia, are the island’s most successful club, but
they were pipped to the title last year by Arawak.
Abramovich helps to
rebuild local stadium
Chelsea owner puts money
into the Caribbean game
Lukas Klostermann makes his
debut as Germany draw 1-1 in
a friendly with Serbia.
ITALY: Igor Tudor returns as
Udinese coach just hours after
they dismiss Davide Nicola.
SPAIN: Paco Jemez returns to Rayo
Vallecano less than three years
after leaving the club when they
were relegated from La Liga.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Bert
Van Marwijk is named coach and
replaces Alberto Zaccheroni, who
led UAE to the Asian Cup
semi-finals in January.
Thursday March 21
AFC: Mohammed Khalfan Al
Rumaithi of the UAE pulls out of
the race for the presidency of the
Asian Football Confederation.
EURO QUALIFIERS: Youri
Tielemans scores his first goal for
Belgium as they beat Russia 3-1.
Kazakhstan, who had won only
one of their previous 20 qualifiers,
beat Scotland 3-0, while Cyprus
First goal...Youri Tielemans celebrates
(in white) take
Impressive...Stade de Saint-Jean