Aruba

Aruba

  • Capital: Oranjestad
  • Population: 116,500 (2019 estimate)
  • Official Languages: Dutch, Papiamento
  • Nicknames: n/a
  • Association: Arubaanse Voetbal Bond (AVB)
  • Top Domestic Leagues: Division di Honor (men); Division Damas (women)
  • FIFA Code: ARU

Records

  • 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): Not Qualified
  • Best Caribbean Cup (Women): First Round (2014)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 112th (November 2015)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 92nd (December 2009)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 205th (April 2021)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 165th (April 2021)
  • Most Capped Player: Theric Ruiz – 28 caps
  • Top Scorer: Ronald Gómez – 6 goals [as of October 2021]

Introduction & Brief History

The island of Aruba, formally known as the ‘Country of Aruba’, is located in the far south of the Caribbean region. Situated just 29km (18 miles) off the northern coast of Venezuela and the South American continent, it is the western most island of the ABC islands, a collection of three Dutch-speaking islands off the Venezuelan coast which includes the central island of Curaçao (which Aruba is 80km/50mi northwest of) and the eastern island of Bonaire. In terms of area, it is smaller than either Bonaire or Curaçao, but has the second-largest population of the three islands with just under 117k people living on the island – roughly a third of all the combined population in the ‘Dutch Caribbean‘. Aruba is in a curious situation within the Caribbean as it is considered a ‘constituent country’ within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This means that whilst it’s still governed and protected by the Dutch overall, and its citizens are all Dutch nationals, it has its own level of autonomy – a similar scenario to that of the British Overseas Territories within the Caribbean. Aruba obtained its current situation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1986 when it seceded from the (now defunct) constituent country of the Netherlands Antilles.

Originally part of the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba contributed considerably to the Netherlands Antilles national team. This was apparent during the ‘golden era’ of the team throughout the 1960s when numerous Aruban players were part of the sides that achieved two third place finishes and one fifth place finish in the CONCACAF Championship (the forerunner tournament to the Gold Cup). However, Aruban contribution to the Antillean national team ended when Aruba seceded from the confederation, joining CONCACAF as a new member in 1986, and then as a full member of FIFA two years later in 1988.

Aruba’s men’s team have yet to qualify for any major tournament, failing to appear in either a World Cup, CONCACAF Gold Cup, or even a Caribbean Cup. Their first ever qualifying campaign as an independent team came in the 1995 Caribbean Cup, but Aruba lost 7-5 on aggregate coincidently to neighbours Netherlands Antilles in the Preliminary Qualifying Round of the regional tournament. Whereas their first World Cup qualifying campaign came attempting to qualify for the 1998 World Cup, but again Aruba failed at the first hurdle, losing 6-3 over two legs to the Dominican Republic in the Preliminary Round. Throughout Aruba’s World Cup qualifying history, the country has only won four games (and been awarded another victory against Barbados in 2015) and has progressed into the next qualifying round in just the 2002 and 2018 World Cup campaigns. Whilst, the team’s best campaign came attempting to qualify for the 2014 Caribbean Cup when they won two of their three group games, they still just missed out on progression to the next round of qualifying when they finished as runners-up in the four-team group.

In the most recent CONCACAF Nations League, Aruba were placed in the second-tier League B, but will be playing in the third-tier League C in the next edition of the competition after getting relegated from their group. Six straight group defeats to Jamaica, Guyana, and Antigua & Barbuda, and conceding eighteen goals, ensured their demotion to the lowest-seeded level of the CONCACAF nations of the 2022-23 Nations League, as well as missing out on the qualifying phase for the 2021 Gold Cup. Recently, when attempting to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, they finished fourth in the five-team group in the First Round of qualifying despite being the lowest-ranked team in the group. A 3-1 win against the Cayman Islands, and scoring their only goals of the whole campaign, ensured Aruba avoided finishing bottom of their qualifying group.

Aruba National Team

Q. Who is Aruba’s best player of all-time?

Angé Perez

The player who is regarded as Aruba’s greatest ever player is someone who never actually played for the Aruban national team. During the period when Aruba was part of the Netherlands Antilles, one of the Antilles’ star players was striker Felix Angélico “Angé” Perez. As mentioned in an Outside Write article about football in the Dutch Caribbean, Perez started his career on the island with SV Bubali, and had playing stints in a number of countries within CONCACAF before eventually signing with leading Venezuelan side Deportivo Portugués in 1967. Apparently, Perez was a hit at the Caracas-based side, who won the Venezuelan league four times before sadly dissolving in 1985, and stayed there for six years. Sadly, Perez died very young at just 35-years-old but he is described as the “Idolo di Aruba su Futbol“, and has a street named in his honour on the island.

To read Outside Write‘s article on the history of football in the Dutch Caribbean, check out the link below:

Q. Who is currently the best player in the national side?

Joshua John

Currently, the best player in the Aruban national side is the 33-year-old winger Joshua John, who currently plays for the Dutch Eerste Divisie side VVV-Venlo. Originally a Dutch under 21 international where he made five appearances and scored two goals between 2009 and 2010, he made his international debut for Aruba in 2018 against Bermuda. At the time of writing, he has played eight games for Aruba and has scored four goals, most recently scoring a brace for the Arubans in their 3-1 win over the Cayman Islands during 2022 World Cup qualifying.

Gregor Breinburg

Another player who needs mentioning is the 30-year-old defensive midfielder Gregor Breinburg, who currently plays for ADO Den Haag. Although he hasn’t played for the national team since the end of 2019, Breinburg has plenty of experience within the Dutch top two divisions having played for De Graafschap, NEC Nijmegan, and Sparta Rotterdam during his career. A regular starter for ADO this season, he has earned 13 caps for Aruba, scoring a single goal against Guyana in the CONCACAF Nations League.

Denzel Dumfries

However, arguably the best Aruban player at the moment is one that has played for the Aruban national team in the past, but is unable to do so anymore. One of Euro 2020’s breakout stars was the 25-year-old attacking right-back Denzel Dumfries, who stared for the Dutch national team during the European Championships and earned himself a summer move to the Italian champions, Inter Milan. Despite having earned 26 caps (at the time of writing) for the Oranje, he initially picked up two international caps for Aruba in 2014, representing the country of his father’s birth, by playing in two friendly matches against Guam. Sadly for the Aruban national team, he switched his allegiance to the Netherlands in 2016, eventually becoming a full Dutch international in 2018. His switch to his birth country caused some annoyance within Aruban football circles, with former Aruban manager Giovanni Franken calling Dumfries a “traitor” for rejecting the Aruban national team.

Q. Who could be considered as the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

There are some good young talented players progressing into the Aruban national team, with many of the domestic clubs producing a strong line of players for the national team. However, here are just a few select players that may be worth keeping an eye on:

Ethan Tromp
  • Glenbert Croes – 20-year-old right wing back / winger who currently plays for Racing Club Aruba. Scored his first goal for Aruba in November 2019 against Guyana in the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League.
  • Ethan Tromp – 19-year-old attacking midfielder who plays for SV Bubali.
  • Javier Jiménez – 21-year-old attacking midfielder/forward who plays for German lower league side Brandenburger SC Süd 05.
  • Jean-Pierre Heyden – 21-year-old defender currently playing for SV Dakota.
  • Edward Clarissa – 21-year-old midfielder currently playing for Deportivo Nacional

Q. What is the current state/performance of the national team?

Below are Aruba’s international results in 2021. All the March and June games were played in the First Round of 2022 World Cup qualifying and played in neutral Bradenton in the United States due to the ongoing COVID pandemic heavily affecting the Caribbean region:

  • 27th March: Suriname (n) 0-6
  • 30th March: Bermuda (n) 0-5
  • 2nd June: Cayman Islands (n) 3-1
  • 5th June: Canada (n) 0-7
  • 1st October: Curaçao (h) 1-7 [Copa ABCS Semi-Final]
  • 2nd October: Curaçao U20s (h) 2-2 [won on pens – Copa ABCS 3rd Place Playoff]

It’s been a difficult period for the Aruban national team recently. They suffered six straight defeats in their most recent CONCACAF Nations League campaign which has resulted in them been relegated to League C of the next edition of the competition. In addition, they have only won two games in their last fourteen competitive international matches. Nonetheless, the 3-1 victory over the higher-ranked Cayman Islands was an important result for the Arubans as not only did it stop an eleven-game losing streak, but ensured they did not finish bottom of their tough World Cup qualifying group. In addition, it was their fourth-ever victory in World Cup qualifying (or fifth if you include the game they were awarded in 2015 against Barbados), which can surely be seen as a positive step forward for the Arubans.

Sadly, the lack of future full international fixtures for the national team this year, which is often prevalent for the lower-ranked CONCACAF teams at the best of times, and more apparent in these current pandemic times, means that any potential progression in the team could often be hindered. However, the recent matches in the Copa ABCS, where Aruba finished third in the tournament, have helped improve team building and allowed head coach Stanley Menzo to develop his squad further.

Q. Looking at Aruba’s international history, what has been the best game, result, or performance for the national team?

Certainly the first international victory would be considered a sweet one considering it took twelve years from first joining FIFA as a member to achieve it. A 4-2 home victory against Puerto Rico in the First Round of the ‘Caribbean Zone‘ for the 2002 World Cup qualifiers was achieved especially after being 2-0 down at half-time. A 2-2 draw in the second leg (again coming from 2-0 down) ensured Aruba’s first ever two-legged fixture victory in any qualification tournament.

Mid-July 2012 was another good time for Aruba when they managed to beat local and cultural rivals Curaçao (3-2) and Suriname (1-0) in consecutive matches within the space of three days for the Copa ABCS. Their most successful qualifying campaign probably came during their attempt to qualify for the 2014 Caribbean Cup, when Aruba managed to beat Turks & Caicos Islands 1-0, and the British Virgin Islands 7-0 in their Preliminary Round group, to potentially set up progression to the First Round of qualifying. Sadly a 2-0 home defeat to French Guiana in their final group game ensured their campaign ended their hopes, but it was a decent performance against a team who would subsequently qualify for the Caribbean Cup and the Gold Cup the following year.

More recently, Aruba’s performance during the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League qualifying campaign (to determine which League countries would start off in) started off very impressively. Despite being the lowest ranked side within Pot C, they managed to defeat Pot B side Bermuda 3-1 to inflict the Gombey Warriors‘ only defeat during the qualifying phase, and followed it up with a goalless draw with Pot A side Guadeloupe to shock a lot of pundits within CONCACAF. Alas the opening two games was followed by a disappointing 2-0 loss to Pot D side Montserrat (who were starting their continuous rise within CONCACAF’s standings) and finished with a 3-2 defeat to fellow Pot C side Saint Lucia. Thankfully, their performances against the higher-ranked sides was just enough to ensure Aruba would be placed in League B for the Nations League.

Q. What is your favourite shirt from the Aruban national team?

Having looked at some of the shirts from the Aruban team, I think my favourites have to be the ones which were worn around 2015-16. Made by the iconic Admiral brand, they produced a home and away shirt in the same colour shades as the Aruban flag, which is always a positive in my opinion. The home shirt was yellow with sky blue sleeves, whilst the away was the same design but with the main colours switched. A classy design with the sky blue away shirt perhaps being the nicer of the two offerings.

Pictures of the 2015-16 away shirt can be better seen at The Global Obsession‘s page on the Aruba shirt.

Aruban Domestic Football

Q. What is the Aruban football pyramid like?

At the time of writing, the Aruban football pyramid has three levels:

  • Tier 1 – Division di Honor
  • Tier 2 – Division Uno
  • Tier 3 – Division Dos

The top tier league, the Division di Honor (also known as the Campeonato AVB), was founded in 1960 and currently has 8-10 teams competing in the league. The winner of the league is eligible to play for the following season’s CFU Caribbean Club Championship, which ultimately feeds into the CONCACAF Champions Cup, although the last time an Aruban team played in the regional competition was in 2009. Once all teams have played each other twice (home and away), the top four teams progress to the ‘Calle 4‘, where they will play each other again twice. The top two of the Calle 4 then progress to the Championship final which is a best two-out-of-three match series. However unlike a typical two-out-of-three series, if a team wins one of the first two matches and the other match is a draw, that team wins the series without playing the third game. This is despite the fact that their opponent could potentially tie the series if a third game were played.

The bottom club in the league is automatically relegated to the second tier Division Uno, whilst the eighth and ninth-placed teams compete in a four-team round-robin playoff tournament with the second and third-placed teams from the fifteen-team Division Uno to decide which teams compete in the following season’s Division di Honor.

The national cup competition is the Torneo Copa Betico Croes, and has been running since the 2004-05 season. The cup is named after the Aruban political activist Gilberto François “Betico” Croes who was the main proponent for Aruba’s separation from the Netherlands Antilles, and is remembered as the “Libertador” of the Aruban people.

Q. Which Aruban teams are historically the most successful?

The logos of Racing Club Aruba (RCA) and Estrella

Historically, it could be argued that SV Racing Club Aruba (RCA) and SV Estrella are the most successful teams from the island as they were the only Aruban clubs to have won the (now defunct) Netherland Antilles championship, the Kopa Antiano, winning the titles in 1965 and 1970 respectively.

  • 16 titles: Racing Club Aruba, Dakota
  • 12 titles: Estrella
  • 6 titles: Deportivo Nacional
  • 4 titles: Britannia
  • 2 titles: River Plate
  • 1 title: La Fama, Bubali, San Luis Deportivo

In terms of the league, the most successful teams on Aruba are RCA and SV Dakota, with both of the Oranjestad-based sides winning sixteen league titles each. RCA have certainly been the most successful of the two sides most recently, having won six titles since the 2007-08 season in comparison with Dakota’s sole win in the 2017-18 season. The third-most successful side is Estrella, with the Santa Cruz-based side winning twelve titles although their last title came in the 2005-06 season. The fourth most successful team is SV Deportivo Nacional, who are based in the tourist district of Palm Beach, have won six titles in their history, and are the current Division di Honor champions.

  • 7 cups: Britannia
  • 4 cups: Racing Club Aruba
  • 2 cups: Dakota, Estrella
  • 1 cup: Sportboys, Estudiantes

The most successful club in terms of the Torneo Copa Betico Croes is the Piedra Plat-based side SV Britannia, who have won seven cups between 2008 and 2017, including four consecutive cup victories between 2008 and 2011. Racing Club Aruba are the second-most successful team in the national cup competition with four victories, and are the current cup holders.

Finally, in terms of the CFU Club Championship, only Britannia (2005, 2006, and 2009), Deportivo Nacional (2007), Racing Club Aruba (2007) have appeared in the regional competition. Sadly, neither of the three teams have progressed beyond the First Round of the tournament.

Q. Who are currently the best teams on the island?

In the severely reduced 2021 season (due to the COVID outbreak) where the teams only played each other once in the main league campaign, RCA, Dakota, La Fama, and Deportivo Nacional all qualified for the Calle 4. Instead of a group stage, the top four played in one-legged playoff games to determine the league winner. Ultimately, the playoff final was played between the third-placed La Fama and the fourth-placed team Deportivo Nacional. In the Championship Final, Deportivo Nacional won the game 2-0 to claim their sixth title, and second in five years.

La Fama would suffer further heartbreak in the cup final when they were hammered by RCA 7-0 to ensure Racing Club Aruba successfully defended their cup title.

Useful Links

The links for the Arubaanse Voetbal Bond (AVB) official social media channels can be found below:

In addition, the excellent people of the World of Concacaf Podcast have done a superb podcast ‘lazer-focusing‘ on Aruban football. Their podcasts are well worth listening to, and can be found at the following links below:

(NOTE: The focus on Aruba appears in Part 1 of the two-part podcast.)

So that completes the look at the Aruban national team and its domestic league. 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 the94thmin@gmail.com, or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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