French Guiana Gold Cup debu­tants set to quit

French over­seas depart­ment see fu­ture with CONMEBOL

World Soccer - - Contents -

French Guiana will make their first and pos­si­bly last ap­pear­ance when they take part in July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup in the USA. Once one of the world’s most in­ac­tive sides, the French over­seas depart­ment suc­ceeded in qual­i­fy­ing for the 2017 Caribbean Cup, which dou­bled up as a Gold Cup qual­i­fier, and now face Canada and Hon­duras in Hous­ton, on July 7 and 11 re­spec­tively, be­fore meet­ing Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas, on July 14. And that, lit­er­ally, could be the end.

At is­sue is the lack of trans­port links be­tween the cap­i­tal, Cayenne, and the rest of the Caribbean.

“Play­ing in the Caribbean Cup is very ex­pen­sive for us and we have some voices who say we should go with CONMEBOL as we are in South Amer­ica,” says Ligue de Foot­ball de la Guyane (LFG) vice-pres­i­dent Alain Mi­jdt.

“If we are in CONMEBOL it would be eas­ier as we could fly to Belem and then to Rio de Janiero. It would only take four hours. To get to the Caribbean, we fly from Suri­nam be­cause there are no di­rect flights from French Guiana.”

In the Gold Cup qual­i­fiers, French Guiana trav­elled to Ber­muda in the first round – and went via Europe.

De­spite an ar­du­ous travel itin­er­ary, Jair Karam’s team qual­i­fied af­ter a stun­ning 5-2 win over Haiti in Port-au-Prince. “We didn’t ex­pect to win as we were ar­gu­ing in the first half, but at half-time we said what we had to say and went out and played,” says cen­tre-half Marvin Tor­vic.

Guingamp striker Slo­van Pri­vat made the dif­fer­ence, bag­ging a hat-trick in only his sec­ond ap­pear­ance. Born in Cayenne, the 27-year-old rep­re­sented France at un­der-21 level but later opted for the land of his birth af­ter the LFG be­gan scour­ing the di­as­pora.

“We qual­i­fied for the Caribbean Cup for the first time in 2012 with lo­cal play­ers, but af­ter that we changed things and asked play­ers from over­seas to come,” ex­plains Mi­jdt.

Those trips se­cured the ser­vices of Pri­vat, Rennes de­fender Lu­dovic Baal and his younger brother Loic, who plays in the French third tier, but many of the home-based play­ers have been to­gether and have a strong bond. Tor­vic, who has 30 caps, has five cousins in the team, in­clud­ing the Baal broth­ers.

In the Gold Cup run-up, Mi­jdt and Karam vis­ited Paris and Mont­pel­lier on an­other re­cruit­ment drive, but their big­gest tar­get is Florent Malouda. The

“I think we can sur­prise a few peo­ple at the Gold Cup” French Guiana cen­tre-back Marvin Tor­vic

for­mer Chelsea mid­fielder was born in Cayenne but left for France at 16 and went on to win 80 caps for Les Bleus. “I know Florent is in touch with the coach,” says Mi­jdt.

French Guiana is part of CONCACAF but not FIFA, and play­ers who turn out for France at se­nior level must wait five years be­fore returning. Malouda, who turns 37 in June and played for Delhi Dy­namos in the 201617 In­dian Su­per League, won his last France cap in 2012.

With many Guianan play­ers opt­ing to rep­re­sent France, the LFG is left frus­trated and iso­lated with­out FIFA mem­ber­ship.

“The French fed­er­a­tion give us some money, they help us, but it’s not enough to de­velop to a higher level,” says Mi­jdt. “What they are giv­ing us is chicken feed, we need mil­lions. In­fantino is OK, he said FIFA will help. The prob­lem is the French fed­er­a­tion.

“They make it a po­lit­i­cal prob­lem. We went to see the min­is­ter of sport and he said it wasn’t pos­si­ble.”

Like Mar­tinique, who have also qual­i­fied for the Gold Cup, and the other French Caribbean hold­ings of Guade­loupe and Saint Martin, French Guiana were made full CONCACAF mem­bers in 2013 un­der pres­i­dent Jef­frey Webb, who was banned from foot­ball for life last year by FIFA.

Since then, CONCACAF’s new North Amer­i­can lead­er­ship has been locked in an in­ternecine bat­tle with the Caribbean Foot­ball Union (CFU).

“There is a big split at CONCACAF with the Caribbean,” ex­plains Mi­jdt. “They’re putting in place poli­cies that mean there will never be a pres­i­dent from the Caribbean again.

“If we stay in the CFU, will it be a ben­e­fit to us? If we go to CONMEBOL, we have an op­por­tu­nity to play big teams. Of course, they will beat us heav­ily at the start but look what hap­pened with Venezuela.”

Base­ball-mad Venezuela are now com­pet­i­tive in CONMEBOL and that’s French Guiana’s tar­get.

“We’ve beaten Hon­duras al­ready; I think we can sur­prise a few peo­ple at the Gold Cup,” says Tor­vic.

That could be on and off the pitch if French Guiana quit Caribbean foot­ball for South Amer­ica.

Chal­lenge... French Guiana (in yel­low) take on Ber­muda

Hero...Florent Malouda ar­rives at French Guiana’s Rocham­beau air­port

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