Antigua and Barbuda
- Capital: St. John’s
- Official Languages: English
- National Language: Antiguan and Barbudan Creole
- Nicknames: The Benna Boys – men’s team; The Benna Girls – women’s team
- Association: Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA)
- FIFA Code: ATG
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Gold Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best Gold Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Caribbean Cup (Men): Runners-Up (1988)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 70th (October 2014)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 92nd (December 2009)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 170th (December 2003-January 2004)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 160th (April 2021)
- Most Capped Player: Peter Byers – 93 caps [as of September 2021]
- Top Scorer: Derrick Edwards – 59 goals
Antigua and Barbuda is an island nation situated within the eastern half of the Caribbean region. Consisting of the dual major islands of the southern and vastly populated Antigua and the northern, less-populated Barbuda (separated by 63km / 39 miles), as well as some smaller islands, the country is situated in the middle of the Leeward Islands archipelago chain. Antigua and Barbuda’s nearest neighbours are Saint Kitts and Nevis to the west of Antigua, the British overseas territory of Montserrat to the southwest, with the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe to the south. In addition, the Dutch islands of Saba and Sint Eustatius, and the French island of Saint Barthélemy are located to the west of Barbuda, whilst the divided island of Saint-Martin / Sint Maarten is to the northwest of Barbuda. Having been part of the British Empire, and the West Indies Federation, Antigua and Barbuda finally gained its independence from the United Kingdom in November 1981, but is still a member of the Commonwealth with Elizabeth II maintaining her position as the country’s head of state.
As with many other English-speaking countries in the Caribbean, football was brought to the islands whilst part of the British Empire, with the Antigua & Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) being founded as early as 1928. They would also become full members of FIFA and CONCACAF in 1970, eleven years before independence. The islands’ first officially recognised game was played in November 1972 when they took on Trinidad & Tobago at Port of Spain as part of qualifying for the 1974 World Cup, but it resulted in a 11-1 defeat – still a record defeat for the national team.
The Benna Boys (named after the indigenous music of the country following a public vote for the team’s nickname in 2012) have never qualified for a World Cup nor a CONCACAF Gold Cup in their history. Antigua and Barbuda were regular qualifiers for the Caribbean Cup during the defunct competition’s history, although often being eliminated in the group stage. Nonetheless, they did achieve a couple of notable achievements, finishing runners-up in the 1988 edition of the four-team Caribbean Cup, and finishing in fourth place for the expanded format of the 1998 edition. Their best run in World Cup qualifying came in the 2014 World Cup campaign when they managed to top a group containing Haiti, Curaçao, and the US Virgin Islands, to progress to the Third Round of CONCACAF qualifying for the first time. Sadly in their Third Round group, they finished bottom of the group and earned just a single point from the United States, Jamaica, and Guatemala in their group, but had performed admirably against their more illustrious opponents.
Most recently, Antigua & Barbuda finished third in their CONCACAF Nations League group meaning that, although they failed to qualify for the 2021 Gold Cup, they still maintained their position within League B for the next edition of the competition. They have also been eliminated from the 2022 World Cup qualifying, but were unlucky not to progress beyond their First Round group. Having initially drawn to neighbours Montserrat, and beating the US Virgin Islands and Grenada, they had an opportunity to progress to the Second Round of qualifying had they beaten top-seeds El Salvador in their final group game. Sadly, the Benna Boys lost 3-0 away at San Salvador to ensure their opponents progressed rather than themselves, and confirm a third place finish (behind Montserrat) in their First Round qualifying group.
To talk about a side who currently play in League B in the CONCACAF Nations League and were unlucky not to progress to the Second Round of 2022 World Cup qualifying, we interviewed the excellent Benna Boys Fans. They are a Twitter account which reports and discusses everything that is happening in the fascinating world of the Antigua and Barbuda national team, as well as the odd mention about English Championship club Preston North End. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @BennaBoys
Q. Who would you say is Antigua & Barbuda’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
Best player: Mikele Leigertwood [defensive midfielder who played for Antigua & Barbuda between 2008 and 2012, earning 11 caps and scoring 1 goal] is probably the most famous player to play for Antigua & Barbuda, having played in the English Premier League for 3 different clubs [Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, and Reading]. Forward Derrick Edwards has probably had the greatest international career, and is the country’s record scorer with 59 goals in 63 games [playing for the national team between 1988 and 2003]. Peter Byers [36-year-old forward currently playing for Antiguan side SAP] has probably been the star player in the past 15 years, scoring over 40 goals and earning over 90 caps.
Best manager: Tom Curtis [currently in his second spell as national team manager having initially coached them between 2011 and 2012] because he managed to get the team to the “semi-final” round of 2014 World Cup qualifying for the first (and so far only) time in the country’s history.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the Antigua & Barbuda national team both in the past and present?
Tamarley ‘Ziggy‘ Thomas [38-year-old defender/midfielder currently playing for Greenbay Hoppers FC] is a player who is very well liked. He is extremely versatile and has been in the team for almost 20 years now, plus he has played in Antigua all his life!
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the national side currently?
Mahlon Romeo [26-year-old defender] of Portsmouth (on loan from Millwall) is the best player at the moment by a fair distance. 23-year-old Luther James-Wildin of Stevenage (also a right-back) is another player who has really impressed recently.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
Better than it was in 2019, where we suffered a couple of big defeats to Jamaica (6-0) and Guatemala (8-0), but not quite as good as it was about 10 years ago. The team finished 3rd in their 2022 World Cup qualifying Round 1 group as the second seeds, but a win in our final game would have seen us into Round 2 [they ultimately lost 3-0 away to El Salvador in the final group game to miss out on progression]. All things considered, we’re doing ok but nothing better.
Q. Are there any Antigua & Barbuda players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
D’Andre Bishop (forward playing for Villa Lions) is only 18 but has already become a regular in the team, starting all four of our World Cup qualifiers and scoring in one of them. He made his international debut aged just 16 and scored in just his second appearance for the national team [scoring against Aruba after just eight minutes in September 2019]. He has a lot of potential to do well for the national team in the future.
- CONCACAF’s Highlights of Antigua & Barbuda vs. Aruba in 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyxFffWe-ew
Q. Looking at Antigua & Barbuda’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance for the national team in your opinion?
My favourite game has to be the game against Saint Lucia in 2015. The Benna Boys needed to overturn a 3-1 deficit in the 2nd leg to reach the Third Round of 2018 World Cup qualification. With 20 minutes to go the score was 0-0, and with just 5 minutes remaining the score was still 1-1, and it was looking like Antigua & Barbuda were heading out! Needing 2 goals just to send the game into extra time, they managed to score 3 late goals (including 2 goals in stoppage time) to give the team an incredible 4-1 victory (winning 5-4 on aggregate)!
Honourable mentions go to the surprise 1-0 win over Haiti in 2011, which sent the team to the semi-final round of 2014 World Cup qualification, as well as the game versus USA a year later, with Antigua & Barbuda running their opponents very close, only losing 2-1 by only conceding the decider in the 90th minute.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
2019 threw up some bad results, including a 6-0 defeat to Jamaica, and a particularly humiliating 8-0 defeat to Guatemala.
- CONCACAF’s Highlights of Jamaica vs. Antigua & Barbuda in 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MErhcfcKyZI
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Antigua & Barbuda national team?
The best thing is when the team plays one of the bigger nations and causes a surprise.
The worst thing from a personal point of view is that I live about 4,000 miles away! So its difficult to watch all the games live due to a lack of coverage.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
None that I’m aware of.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
I really like the yellow & black 2016-17 home shirt.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Antigua & Barbuda national team?
The dream, like it is for any small nation, is to one day reach the World Cup of course! But in the short term, it would be nice to see the country qualify for the Gold Cup or win promotion to League A in the CONCACAF Nations League.
A massive thank you very much to the superb Benna Boys Fans account for answering our questions on the Benna Boys. Remember you can find their excellent social media account in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.