Small Fish Big Pond 1 – Birth of the Benna Boys

Antigua Barracuda, the former USL Pro side, achieved notoriety during their 2013 campaign, for all the wrong reasons. Here’s the story on how the 3rd Tier underdogs came to be.

Antigua and Barbuda is a small Caribbean nation, consisting of it’s two namesake islands, located among the Lesser Antilles. According to it’s most recent census, it’s population is somewhere around 81,000. Ruled by Britain until it’s independence in 1981, it was only natural that the colonial influence would bring with it the sports of cricket and soccer. Antigua and Barracuda are one of several nations that make up the successful West Indies international cricket team; one of only ten to play at the elite Test level. Yet, in soccer, they’re historically one of the least successful nations in CONCACAF.

The Benna Boys, named for the nation’s indigenous music, got their start in 1928 with the creation of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association. The local Premier Division was founded in 1968, en route to FIFA and CONCACAF membership in 1970, just in time for qualification to the 1974 World Cup.

On November 10th, 1972, the Benna Boys traveled to nearby Trinidad and Tobago to take on the Soca Warriors for their first official international. The match was the first in a World Cup qualification home and away series.

Antigua lost, eleven to one. Their worst defeat, in their first match.

The following week didn’t end much better, with the Benna Boys losing again, two to one. The remaining qualifying matches followed suit, with Antigua and Barbuda losing 6-0 and 3-1 against Suriname. It would be another twelve years before the twin islands would so much as enter another World Cup.

In January of 1978, the Caribbean Football Union was created, providing more frequent international competition for the region. Antigua and Barbuda entered the inaugural CFU Championship, qualifying for the final with their first international win over French territory Guadaloupe. Having made it to the finals, they swiftly found themselves overpowered, losing all three round robin games to Suriname, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago. The following year, they were knocked out of qualification by Haiti, losing both games 1-0.

Four years passed before the Benna Boys played again.

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