By Ivan Orozco
PASADENA, CA -- Martinique is a small island located in the Caribbean Sea about 280 miles northeast of the coast of South America. It is between the islands of St. Lucia and Dominica with a total area of 435 miles, four times smaller than Rhode Island. Tourism powers its economic structure thanks to its nice beaches and tropical weather. Its official language is French and it uses the Euro for currency.
Due to the fact that Martinique is an overseas department of France, it is not part of FIFA and it is not eligible to qualify for the World Cup. Its players are considered to be French citizens and are eligible to play for France’s national team.
Though for many, playing for France is considered somewhat of a long-shot, donning the jersey of Martinique is very much a source of pride. This fact makes Martinique’s returns to the Gold Cup after a 10-year absence a sweet one. It has the honor of opening the tournament against Canada on Sunday at the Rose Bowl.
Martinique hasn’t played in the Gold Cup since failing to make it out of the first stage in 2003 with loses to the United States and El Salvador. It reached the quarterfinals in 2002 where it lost in penalty kicks to Canada after playing to a 1-1 draw. Martinique advanced after beating Trinidad and Tobago 1-0 and losing to Costa Rica 2-0 in the first round. Its first Gold Cup appearance came in 1993.
Martinique comes into the tournament as an underdog, but that doesn’t mean it lacks experience at the international level. It is always a contender for the biennial Caribbean Cup title and also participates in the Coupe de l'Outre-Mer, a tournament featuring other French overseas departments and territories. CONCACAF’s French Guyana and Guadeloupe are some of the other teams eligible to play in the competition. Martinique won the title in 2010 and reached the final in 2012, before falling to Reunion, a small island South East of Africa.
Les Matinino’s Gold Cup roster consists mostly of players from its domestic league and those who play in lower division sides in France and Spain.
There is no shortage of firepower, however, with forwards Kevin Parsemain (Riviere-Pilote), Frederic Piquioone (Portland Timbers/USA) and Steeve Gustan (Club Franciscain) leading the way.