The 2014 FIFA World Cup 2014 kicked off last week in Brazil—while no Caribbean teams made it to football’s most important match this year, there are still plenty of representatives of the islands out on the field.
Playing for Belgium is center-midfielder Axel Witsel—though Witsel is a native of Liège, Belgium, his father Thierry has roots in Martinique (and played football in Belgium as well).
, playing for the Netherlands, has football in his blood as well—the Surinamese striker’s uncle Sigi Lens played professionally as well. This is Lens’ second time being called up for the Dutch national team (he’s already scored one goal in international play), though he has also played for Suriname in a regional competition.
Like a handful of players from the Dutch team over the years, Fer‘s family hails from the Antilles—his grandfather was a professional footballer in Curaçao. Though he publicly expressed his desire to play internationally for his family’s island, he ultimately decided to join the Dutch national team as a center-midfielder.
Jonathan de Guzmán
Jonathan de Guzmán was a truly international player, even before he was recruited to play for the Netherlands in this year’s World Cup—born in Ontario to a Filipino father and Jamaican mother, de Guzmán has played professionally for Spain’s Villarreal and Wales’ Swansea City. He’ll be an attacking midfielder for the Dutch at this year’s World Cup.
Nigel de Jong
De Jong is a defensive midfielder for the Dutch National team, as well as for AC Milan. His father is Suriname’s Jerry de Jong, a professional footballer who played for clubs around Europe—Nigel is keeping up his legacy with this second World Cup outing for the Netherlands (who, in 2010, were runner-up to Spain).
Sterling, who at only 20 is already a winger for England and Liverpool FC, was born in Kingston and lived in Maverley with his grandmother until he was 5. He was profiled by the Jamaica Gleaner during a 2012 return to the island
Wijnaldum, whose family is Surinamese, was born and raised in Rotterdam and plays for the Netherlands. This year will be his first World Cup—though he’s only technically participated in five minutes of international play (against San Marino), he’s already scored one international goal (!).
Jozy Altidore is a forward for the U.S., and one of the most well-known players of Caribbean descent at this year’s Cup. Originally from Miami, Altidore’s family is Haitian. Check out this feature on Altidore ahead of his first World Cup outing in 2010 (at which he was heavily featured by the US team), and this Beats By Dre ad he’s in (alongside LeBron, and Nicki, and Wayne…).
Raphaël Varane is from Martinique by way of Lille, France—currently, he plays for Real Madrid as well as the French national team. A central defender, he was named one of Europes's top 10 youngsters to watch by The Guardian. This World Cup will be his first international outing.
Sturridge is a striker for Liverpool FC, as well as for England’s national team. His grandparents are Jamaican, and he’s made several well-publicized trips back to the island, professing his love for Popcaan and showing off his wacky dip. He represented England in the 2012 Olympics, scoring two goals.