9_dressing_room James Montague
World Cup Qualifiers

Photo Essay: A 3-1 Loss, as Seen by Antigua & Barbuda

In June, James Montague had a behind-the-scenes look at Antigua & Barbuda's preparations for the match against the United States. He shared the journey with American Soccer Now.
BY James Montague Posted
October 11, 2012
7:21 AM
Last July Antigua and Barbuda, a tiny collection of islands in the Caribbean that had previously never achieved anything in soccer, reached the semifinal round of 2014 World Cup qualification. First up: the U.S. The team stayed at the IMG academy in Bradenton, Florida. The first thing I saw after arriving was the team's star striker Peter Byers fishing in the lake out back. Byers later cooked up half a dozen of them for himself and his teammates. (Here's Montague's article in The New York Times.)

Also fishing out back was Dexter Blackstock. Whilst most of the team comes from Antigua, playing for the Barracudas in the U.S. third division, many of the players were born in England, where there is a sizeable Antiguan community. Blackstock plays for Nottingham Forest in the English second tier.

Arguably their best player is English-born Mikele Leigertwood. He currently plays for Reading FC in the English Premier League.

The man that has led Antigua to their highest position ever on the FIFA rankings is Tom Curtis, a young English coach whose only previous experience was at the University of Loughborough in the UK. He also coaches the Barracudas full time.

The team coming off the pitch after training.

Before and after every training session the entire team prays together. A locally based lay preacher originally from South Africa led the team's prayers on this occasion.

The locker room at the Raymond James Stadium was so big that the team decided to train there.

Before the game the next day, the players got ready in the stadium's huge locker room.

On the day of the game, fans of both teams excitedly arrive with tickets in hand.

For the U.S. fans, it is a rare chance to be in the majority during a home game.

The match finished 3-1 to the U.S. The Antiguans would later draw with Jamaica 0-0 but narrow losses against Guatemala home and away have virtually ended their World Cup journey. But victory against the U.S. would still send shock waves across the world.

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