The match against Turkmenistan, who they have never faced, will be Guam’s first World Cup fixture since they were thrashed 16-0 by Tajikistan in 2000 which came two days after their debut at this level, a 19-0 loss in Iran.
To mark Thursday’s historic fixture at the National Training Centre in Hagatna, Guam’s goalkeeping coach Adrian Creamer tapped his musical friends to provide a football anthem.
Creamer’s contact was Ronan McManus, the younger brother of British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello, who wrote and released ‘Biba Guahan’ with his band Brand New Zeros which the Guam Football Association have posted for free online. “It’s sort of a Hollywood story, really,” McManus was quoted as saying by Sunday’s Pacific Daily News. “A small nation really making great strides. You can feel the excitement.”
Some members of the British-based band needed some convincing at first, McManus said. “There was a little bit of an explanation as to where Guam is, but once they heard the story they all loved it. They were happy to be involved. They were delighted.”
And hopes are high of a happy ending to Thursday’s script for the team known as the ‘Matao’, a traditional term for the indigenous Chamorro population that refers to courage.
Since the arrival of Englishman Garry White in 2012 as head coach and technical director, the double digit devastations have ceased for the side which became FIFA members in 1996.
In 2013, they recorded a first win over Taiwan and last year achieved their best ever FIFA ranking of 160th, a sizeable feat for a squad headlined by Los Angeles Galaxy defender AJ DeLaGarza but featuring many players with limited U.S. college experience. For Jason Cunliffe, the side’s 31-year-old skipper and forward who juggles his national team duties with working in a bank, the opportunity was one to grab with both hands.
“We go out to win,” he told FIFA. “We are looking to take scalps. We are not going to sit back and park the bus. We are going to come at you, and you will have to beat us.”
White, who was released by English Premier League side Southampton as a youth player, couldn’t wait for the opening match of the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying campaign.
“The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the planet. It’s bigger than the Olympics,” White, who held similar roles with other tropical minnows British Virgin Islands and Bahamas, said.
“This type of event could inspire our next generation of players. It could be the turning point for some of them.”
Thursday’s match is followed by another home qualifier on June 16 against India, the world’s second most populous nation.
A trip to Iran follows in September at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran, which could almost house the entire population of Guam having routinely hosted 100,000 fans for matches. Oman are also Group D opponents.
Cunliffe said the home fixtures were a chance to put Guam, which takes four hours in a flight from Manila, on the map. “We can show them that maybe we only have a population of about 180,000, but when we come to play, we can bring it, too.”