Coined “one of the strangest football matches ever”, the 1994 Caribbean Cup qualifier between Barbados and Grenada was utterly bonkers for several reasons. Here’s why…
Only the Caribbean region would see a game of football so bizarre. For a neutral oblivious to the manner of Barbados’ 4-2 win over Grenada, it would seem a simple case of one team beating another team; except this wasn’t anything of the sort.
Let us paint the picture… (*note: some readers will have already heard about this game, but there’s still a lot of people out there unaware of its peculiar nature)
It’s late January, 1994. The qualifying process for the Caribbean Cup is in full swing and Barbados are preparing to host Grenada at the National Stadium. In the previous round of fixtures, Barbados had narrowly lost to Puerto Rico before Grenada played them two days later and secured a 2-0 win after extra time. This lifted Grenada to first in the standings and condemned Barbados to last, with Puerto Rico sandwiched in the middle.
So when the two sides met each other, Barbados’ task was a straightforward one: win, and they’re through. But here’s the thing. They had to win by at least a two-goal winning margin because the tournament’s powers that be decided that the “Golden Goal” not only achieved instant victory but also, crucially, it counted as double (incidentally, this is how Grenada overcame Puerto Rico by two goals, via netting the unconventional Golden Goal). As long as Barbados didn’t concede, and they managed to register two goals, it was job done.
Late Grenada goal complicated things (massively)
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Barbados were 2-0 up and in pole position. However, the whole dynamic of the game completely changed when Grenada, refusing to give up, pulled one back on 83 minutes. This meant Barbados had to score otherwise they were crashing out. They more or less threw the kitchen sink at the Grenada defence but the team couldn’t find any gaps, nor space to exploit. With the knowledge of the Golden Goal’s meaning, the Barbadians came up with a plan: to take the match to extra time by scoring in their own net.
Incredibly, a Barbadian defender and the goalkeeper Horace Stoute exchanged passes in the penalty area for several minutes before the defender lashed the ball home into his own net, deliberately. Now the score was level and it was indicated that there would be three minutes of additional time, meaning it was now Grenada’s turn to score, but in either net. A goal for would make it 3-2 (which would abolish the two-goal margin) and likewise a goal against would make it 3-2. Either way, Grenada had to score in a net to prevent the game from heading into extra time.
This led to truly remarkable scenes as Barbados were forced to cover both their own goal and Grenada’s to stop their opponents scoring. You had a Barbadian striker marshaling his own net and a Barbadian defender marshaling the Grenada net, as both team’s players ran around utterly bewildered. After three minutes of absolute chaos, the referee blew for full time and the game went to extra time.
Believe it or not, Barbados went onto score in extra time via forward Trevor Thorne and because the Golden Goal represented two goals, this was enough to give them the 4-2 win and hence qualification to the Caribbean Cup. The Grenadian players dropped to the floor, dejected and despondent. They had gone into the match top of the table and came out of it in second, losing out on goal difference.
This was the final standings, with Barbados on top and Grenada in second:
James Clarkson, then-Grenada coach, spoke of his anguish to the press after the game: “I feel cheated. The person who came up with these rules must be a candidate for a madhouse. The game should never be played with so many players running around the field confused. Our players did not even know which direction to attack: our goal or their goal. I have never seen this happen before. In football, you are supposed to score against the opponents to win, not for them”. Rather unsurprisingly, the specifically modified Golden Goal rule was abolished after 1994 and the organisers haven’t used it in the tournament ever since.
The current Grenada FA President, Cheney Joseph, played for Grenada that day and he has very kindly answered some questions exclusively for The Home of Caribbean Football. Cheney recollects his experiences:
Note: CF stands for Caribbean Football, CJ stands for Cheney Joseph.
CF: What was it like playing in “one of the strangest football matches ever”?
CJ: “First of all we came to this tournament not knowing of these rules which were presented to us on arrival, our initial thoughts were this is not a problem to us since we anticipated easily getting past our opponents. However, the confusion turned to reality when prior to the start of our game the strategies needed to come into play. Unfortunately the strategy was only discussed between the coach (former Commissioner of Police James Clarkson) and myself. I will admit we applied the strategy without further discussing with the other players so you can imagine the chaos and confusion on the field. Some of our players were mad at me, when they saw we had outright opportunities to score against Barbados but instead I opted to run with the ball towards my goalkeeper. It remains the weirdest match I will ever play in my life. I cannot imagine another ever coming around in my lifetime”.
Describe the final seven minutes for us, when Grenada pulled one back and were poised to qualify.
“In that period all I was hoping we will keep the score line just as it was, there was not enough time to discuss with the players so I had to think for all of the others and you can imagine the confusion. Added to this misery, the entire Barbados team had discussed the scenario the night before and unfortunately we did not. Thinking back, there must be some blame placed on all of us as well as the match officials and organizers. There was no fair play. Luck was not on our side that day. We could have easily defeated Barbados by at least two clear goals in regulation time.”
How did you and your fellow teammates feel post-match knowing that you weren’t heading to the finals, in such circumstances?
“We were all devastated, to say the least.”
Can you understand why the organisers came up with the unconventional “Golden Goal” rule in the first place?
“All I can say is they were trying to be innovative, and did not give much considerations to this scenario.”
By Nathan Carr
Thank you for reading! Feel free to leave any constructive feedback in the comments box below. Big up to Cheney for taking the time to answer my questions. Meanwhile, you can get in touch with me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.