Sports in Caribbean

Sports in the Caribbean are a cultural mainstay and part of everyday life

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Sports are just as popular in the Caribbean as they are throughout the rest of the world. Baseball is popular in the Dominican Republic, while soccer, cricket, and other European sports hold a strong pull in British islands. Because of such widespread popularity, it's easy to find a game to watch no matter where you travel.

Football (Soccer)

Though the U.S. calls the game soccer, the Caribbean islands call it football, or fútbol, in Spanish. In fact, almost every Caribbean island and most of Latin America has been registered by FIFA, the official soccer association. While football's popularity in South and Central America is well-known, the sport is also extremely popular on the Caribbean islands.

Jamaica's Reggae Boyz worked hard to qualify for the 1998 World Cup and has brought attention to the region's players, many of whom were offered contracts on major European clubs. Trinidad and Tobago's Socca Warriors also qualified to compete in the 2008 games in Germany. These trips to the world cup are making a name for the region.

Baseball

Baseball came to the Caribbean on trade ships that picked up sugar from the island of Cuba in the mid-1800s. Cuba's teams played their first organized game in 1874. The country's civil war sent refugees - and the game - to the Dominican Republic.

Baseball, called beisbol in Spanish, was played on the Dominican Republic for years before the first U.S. occupation in 1916. In fact, two of the country's largest teams had formed by 1911.

By 1949, the Serie del Caribe (Caribbean Series) pitted teams from the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela against one another. Mexico also developed teams by the 1970s. Baseball has reached high levels of popularity in the Caribbean and throughout Latin America, with recent statistics claiming that more than one of every six players in the U.S. is from those regions.

Many of the most popular players in the major leagues, such as Sammy Sosa, have come from the Caribbean and Latin America. The Caribbean was originally the only region where segregation didn't stop good players from earning top honors. Since the desegregation of baseball, many of the Caribbean's best players have been scouted to the major leagues.

Those traveling in search of a good game may want to remember that there's a Caribbean Winter League. Their games are capped off in the Serie del Caribe, or the Caribbean "World Series." This series occurs in February.

Rugby

The British sport of rugby has become popular throughout the Caribbean, even spawning the West Indies Rugby Union. This group is home to a number of Caribbean organizations of rugby teams. Visitors who want to watch a match can certainly find one if they travel during rugby season to any of the following islands, which have organizations within the West Indies Rugby Union:

  • Barbados

  • Bahamas

  • Bermuda

  • British Virgin Islands

  • Cayman Islands

  • Dominican Republic

  • Guadeloupe

  • Jamaica

  • Martinique

  • St. Lucia

  • St. Vincent

  • Trinidad and Tobago

Some rugby clubs even compete internationally, with each island sending its best teams to international games.

Cricket

Cricket in the Caribbean is unique as a sport because it has a West Indian team, rather than teams from various Caribbean islands. This is less surprising when one considers the background of the game, which is largely based on social hierarchy.  Teams are divided into Players and Gentlemen, and the Gentlemen are the leaders of the team.

As children grow up immersed in this popular game, cricket is played in the streets. Some of cricket's most famous champions have been from these West Indies teams. Furthermore, the game has served for an outlet against racial issues through more recent years.

Though many other sports have been popular throughout the Caribbean, these four truly transcend national barriers. They've become popular with many islanders regardless of the race, income, or even language of the players.

 

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