Caribbean Culture Alive And Well Within Entertaining North Carolina Squad

North Carolina FC's Caribbean contingent lifting club up - on and off the field
Neal Malone | Aug 15, 2017

Take a dive into Caribbean culture and it won’t take you long to find happiness and general contentment among the region’s people.

Music, dancing, laughter, and good vibes blanket a region that could very easily – and understandably – wallow in the hardships of many of its island nations. But Caribbean people opt for a positive outlook, and it shows in their culture – one that can’t help but make you smile.

Through sport, the world is able to meet some of the infectious personalities that help keep Caribbean culture alive and well. In the NASL, there is a boisterous contingent of Caribbean players that are coming together to make North Carolina FC one of the must-watch teams in American soccer.

NCFC is home to seven players who either hail from the Caribbean region or have direct family ties to it: Lance Laing, Saeed Robinson (Jamaica); James Marcelin, Brian Sylvestre (Haiti); Kareem Moses, Jonathan Glenn, and Dre Fortune (Trinidad and Tobago).

For this group, soccer isn’t a chore, it’s not a grind – it’s fun. Lots of fun.

With nearly every goal that the team scores, there’s an exuberant celebration dance that accompanies it. The dances are led by the likes of Marcelin and Moses, who are known within the squad as the unofficial NCFC choreographers. These group celebrations have become some of the most gif-able moments in NASL social media circles, perhaps because everyone watching can sense the pure enjoyment that these guys get from playing the game.

“Every day when we go into the locker room, music is playing, we’re having a good time, and we’re dancing around before training and games,” Fortune said. “We just take that and bring the good vibes onto the field. When we score, it’s a great feeling, so we celebrate that accomplishment.”

The team isn’t bad either. In fact, NCFC sat atop the NASL Fall Season Standings prior to Tuesday night’s loss to Spring Season Champion Miami FC.

The same core of players that keeps the team loose with its locker-room banter, impromptu dance parties, and entertaining goal celebrations has NCFC firing on all cylinders.

“There’s chemistry there because we’re very similar,” Moses said. “You can see it on the field in the style of play, and off the field in the music that we listen to and the presence that we bring.”

Laing, who is a three-time NASL Best XI selection, is tied for third in the league in scoring with seven goals. The Trelawny, Jamaica, native has represented the Reggae Boyz at the international level, donning the country’s distinct yellow and green jerseys as recently as last year’s Copa America Centenario.

Sylvestre, who frequently runs the length of the field from his goalkeeping perch to join in on the goal celebrations, leads the league in saves with 73. He is of Haitian descent and has been called up by the country’s national team. Marcelin, a native of Saint-Marc, Haiti, has been a stalwart in the defensive midfield in his 15 starts for NCFC this year. The 31-year-old veteran famously scored for Haiti in a Copa America Centenario game against Brazil last year.

Just 21 years old, Fortune has burst onto the scene as one of the league’s most exciting young players. The gifted midfielder, who represents the Trinidad and Tobago youth national team through his parents’ lineage, has scored twice in his last five games after waiting his turn on the NCFC bench during the Spring Season.

Glenn was recently acquired in a trade by NCFC, and the Trinidad native didn’t waste any time rewarding head coach Colin Clarke’s faith in him. The 6-foot-1 forward, who has represented the Soca Warriors six times at the senior level, found the back of the net in his club debut, scoring in a thrilling road win over Miami.

The on-field efforts of the group, along with their teammates, have put the team in a good position to push for a spot in The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament. But it’s worth wondering how much of NCFC’s success can be owed to the positive, light-hearted environment that has been created by the team’s Caribbean faction.

Defender Christian Ibeagha, whose own outlook jives well with that of his Caribbean counterparts, is a big believer in his team’s positive culture.  

“We’re blessed and lucky to play a sport like this for a living,” Ibeagha said. “Anything we can do to lighten the mood, keep things positive, and make sure we're having a good time, that’s what it’s all about.”

For any coach or technical director, the goal going into a season is to transform a group of individuals into a tight-knit family. That’s not an easy task when players from around the globe, all equipped with different personalities and perspectives, descend on preseason training camp often times with limited knowledge of their new teammates.

But NCFC seems to have figured it out, and perhaps that’s because the good vibes, laughter, and optimism that is synonymous with Caribbean culture have found their way to Sahlen’s Stadium in Cary, N.C.

“It’s always more comfortable to settle in when you have people around you that you know and that you can align with,” said Laing, who joined NCFC in March. “It’s easy to get together with everyone here. It’s not just us Caribbean players, it’s the whole team. It’s really a fun locker room to be in.”

Saturday's game in San Francisco will provide the team with another opportunity to roll out new goal celebrations. Let the choreography begin. 

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