On Sunday, the U.S. Men’s National team will open their World Cup Qualifying campaign against Grenada in Columbus, Ohio, in a two-game series that will also include a trip to St. George’s, the capital of the small island nation, the following weekend. American fans might not know much about Grenada or the people who live there, so ussoccer.com takes a brief glimpse into the world surrounding the “Spice Boyz”.
The population of the country is approximately one-eighth of the population of the city of Columbus, where Sunday’s game will take place. The 93,000 citizens are comprised of 75% people of African descent, with percentages of people of East-Indian and European descent as well.
The country is located in the Caribbean Sea 100 miles north of Venezuela and just north of Trinidad and Tobago, and is similar in culture to the surrounding countries. The tropical flowers and rain forests are typical of the geographically similar islands in the vicinity. The average year-round temperatures range from 75 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit, and there is a rainy season from June to December (though even during the rainy season it is said to rarely rain for more than an hour per day).
The nation consists of three islands- Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique make up the nation, with Grenada being the biggest island by far. It is 133 square miles, which is approximately the same area as Philadelphia, and is made up of volcanic mountains – the highest of which, Mount St. Catherine, reaches over 2,750 feet. The mountains fade into the Caribbean Sea via white sandy beaches. This change in altitude throughout the island brings a variety of plant and animal life, including many different types of spice trees. This explains the nickname of their national soccer team.
Grenada's smaller island, Carriacou, holds sandy beaches and natural harbors. The smallest island, Petit Martinique, consists of little more than the tip of a volcano poking through the bright blue water, but it is now being developed for tourists.
The small nation exchanged ties between France and Britain several times throughout its history, but finally gained independence from the British in 1974. Five years later, there was a popular revolution in Grenada that brought Marxist leader Maurice Bishop to power. On October 25, 1983, the United States military, with the assistance of several other Caribbean islands, launched Operation Urgent Fury on Grenada after help had been requested from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and Grenada’s Governor-General. With the allies' victory, a democracy was eventually established late in 1984.
On June 13 and June 20, the tiny country of Grenada (FIFA Ranking: 145) will try to upset the eighth-ranked team in the world in the United States as it hopes to make its first ever trip to the World Cup. When compared to Barbados, a team that narrowly eliminated Grenada in 2002 World Cup qualifying, their odds might not be as hopeless as some might assume.
Although Barbados eventually lost 11-0 on aggregate to the U.S. in two games of semifinal round play in 2002, during the USA's road leg in Waterford, Barbados, the home side did manage to impressively hold the U.S. scoreless for 63 minutes in a must-win game for the United States.
During their series with Barbados in the opening round of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan 2002, Grenada earned a valuable 2-2 draw in Bridgetown. In the return leg, 3,000 faithful filled Queens Park Stadium to see Grenada try to upset their larger neighbors, but after playing to another tense 2-2 draw, a Barbadian golden goal by Llewellyn Riley eliminated them from qualifying.
In the run-up to France '98, Grenada advanced to the second round after dismissing Guyana 8-1 on aggregate. Haiti would end their dream that time around though, winning 7-1 over two legs.
This year, the national soccer team is embarking on their fifth qualifying campaign since 1982. Grenada's best result to date is a 14-1 win against Anguilla in April 1998. Their worst defeat came at the hands of close neighbors Trinidad and Tobago in 1999, who beat them 7-0. They have never matched up against the United States.
Grenada Quick Facts
Population: approx. 93,000
Area: 133 square miles
Capital: St. George’s (pop. 35,000)
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II
Independence: February 7, 1974
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar (U.S. Dollar = $2.70)
Life Expectancy: 64.52 years
Exports: bananas, cocoa, nutmeg, fruits and vegetables, clothing, mace
Television stations: 2
Radio stations: 15
Stadium Facilities: Queen’s Park National Football Stadium, St. George’s (cap. = 9,000)
Cricket National Stadium, St. George’s (cap. = 15,000)