KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For the first time in three Gold Cup appearances, Guadeloupe aren’t moving on to the quarterfinals.
And although Les Gwada Boys may be the definition of underdogs, it’s still a tough pill to swallow for one of CONCACAFs smallest members. After all, Guadeloupe have made habit of punching above their weight, losing to Mexico in the semifinals in 2007, their first appearance in the tournament, and falling to Costa Rica in the quarterfinals two years later.
For all intents and purposes, this was the only opportunity for captain Stéphane Auvray and his teammates to represent their 400,000 countrymen. Bowing out early after three straight defeats was a gut-wrenching way to end to what the Sporting Kansas City midfielder called Guadeloupe’s World Cup.
“It’s hard for us because we aren’t part of FIFA,” Auvray said after Guadeloupe’s 1-0 defeat to the US on Tuesday at Livestrong Sporting Park. “We aren’t playing for the World Cup. We aren’t a part of qualifying. We don’t have friendlies.
“We play together every two years, and we need these two or three games to really start to get to know each other. We are frustrated because we know we have individual quality. We have potential. But it’s hard to build a team in one week or 10 days before the Gold Cup.”
It’s even harder to do so when your first two games are thrown into disarray by two red cards.
Guadeloupe came into Tuesday’s game needing a miracle and plenty of help to move on. They didn’t get it, losing on a Jozy Altidore screamer, but they gave a good account of the state of soccer on their island, which remains an overseas department of France and prevents them from being sanctioned by FIFA.
They may have plenty of talent compared to other Caribbean members, drawing most of their players from France’s second division and other European leagues, but Auvray said the frustration resulting from the limitations of their current situation had caused some players to call it quits.
“I think a couple players are going to stop their international careers here,” he said. “As I said, it’s frustrating to play the Gold Cup, go home and nothing happens then come back two years later and start back with the same problems that we have. There is a new generation coming up, so I hope they will do as well as we did.”
And whether he will be around to help guide that new generation? Auvray, who will be 31 when the next Gold Cup begins in 2013, said that is still up in the air.
“I’m thinking about it,” he said. “Really, we have to do something about it. It’s hard. It’s like swimming, swimming and swimming then being at the same spot after four years. After a while, you just stop swimming and you come out of the water. This is how I feel.”
Still, Auvray said he continues to feel a tremendous amount of pride representing his island, even if they don’t have the funding or recognition needed to maximize their potential. He said he hoped a run in this tournament might put pressure on the politicians involved to help get Guadeloupe the FIFA status they desperately need to continue moving forward.
That may not have materialized, but he hasn’t given up hope completely. Hope for a better footballing future is all Guadeloupe has at this point.
“We really need to find a solution for our [FIFA] status because we cannot keep playing that way and have nothing to look forward to,” Auvray said. “We really have to find a way to express ourselves in the World Cup and have our island evolving.”