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Thursday, May 21, 2015

FIFA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: SO, WHAT'S IN IT FOR FOOTBALL'S MINNOWS?

At the time of writing, there is just over a week to go until the great and the good (or not-so-good) in the world of football converge on Zürich for the FIFA Presidential Election, with four gentlemen standing for the top post - whatever anybody from the NF-Board or ConIFA might say - in global football.

The current president, Sepp Blatter, contrary to hints and promises made down the years, will be standing for a fourth term. Attempting to unseat him are Michael van Praag, chairman of the KNVB (Dutch FA), Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, head of the Jordanian FA, and Luis Figo of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Portugal fame.

Of the four, only Blatter has declined to issue a manifesto, claiming that his past record speaks for itself. Pat's Football Blog wrote to all four candidates on a number of occasions, Blatter included, in an attempt to elicit their thoughts on different subjects touching on the smaller members of FIFA, and also on those countries/nations which are still outside FIFA's remit. 

Now, transparency in FIFA, goal-line technology and video technology in general were all - rather predictably - covered in the media ad nauseum, so no questions were put to the candidates as to their thoughts on these subjects. (On reflection, perhaps the question "Will you promise to do away with any thoughts of goal-line and other video technology, and instead re-humanise football by increasing the number of goal-line assistants, and also exiling to north-east Greenland each and every one of those hysterical stadium announcers who try to sex-up the pre-match "entertainment"?" should have been posed.)

The main body of the e-mail forwarded for the attention of all four candidates was as is stated below; there were, of course, one or two minor tweaks depending on the candidate, but you get the jist.

"Firstly, I would appreciate it if he would kindly inform as to [name of candidate] thoughts about combating match-fixing, racism, sexism, homophobia - in fact, all forms of bigotry - within football, and his opinions on the full inclusion of the disabled within the football community.



"I would also like to find out more with regard to his stance on football in the smaller countries within the FIFA family as it would appear that those countries in the lower echelons of FIFA are constantly being squeezed out by the bigger member associations, in both sporting and financial respects. What does he intend do to help the smaller FIFA member countries in the event that he is elected as FIFA President?



"I would also like to request his thoughts on a couple of other subjects to do with football in the smaller countries across the globe.."



"First of all, why have, in the opinion of [name of candidate], countries such as Palau, Tuvalu and the Federated States of Micronesia thus far been refused entry into the FIFA ranks? They are, after all, independent states, they possess football pitches and have the basic infrastructure needed to host international football matches - and to accommodate visiting sides. Should [name of candidate] be elected as FIFA President, would he ensure that the associations representing the aforementioned countries be admitted to FIFA under their tenure?



"Also, should [name of candidate] be elected as FIFA President, would FIFA be willing to give financial and logistical assistance to countries such as Nauru and the Marshall Islands in order for them to set up their own viable football structures?

"Under his tenure, would the rule barring football associations from countries not directly affiliated to the United Nations be lifted?

"If so, would the Gibraltar FA, already a member of UEFA, also be accepted into FIFA at long last, having also been unjustly refused entry? Would Greenland's footbally association (GBU) finally be accepted as a member country of both FIFA and UEFA after being unjustly left out in the cold for so long, and would [name of candidate] actively push for this to become a reality? It could be argued that the GBU were victims of circumstance.

"Would other associations representing non-independent nations such as the Falkland Islands and Niue also be considered for FIFA membership should [name of candidate] become president of FIFA? Would FIFA put aside funds to assist the development of football in these and other territories/dependencies?



"What would be [name of candidate] opinion about the situation of the Monaco FA? They represent an independent country and entry into FIFA (and UEFA) would certainly give them an incentive to organise football there properly, as I believe that AS Monaco are the only team currently operating within Monaco's borders. Would AS Monaco's participation in La Ligue be a hindrance, in his view, to achieving member status of both UEFA and FIFA?

"Finally, should [name of candidate] become president of FIFA, would he ensure that the Oceania Football Confederation receive a guaranteed place at all future World Cup final tournaments?"

Alas, although many an attempt was made to elicit answers to the above set of questions, the quest failed. No response was received from Luis Figo's camp or, predictably enough, the FIFA Media Office. Representatives acting on behalf of Prince Ali Al-Hussein and Michael van Praag did respond, but did not provide answers to any of the questions above; promises were made to provide responses should time allow them to do so.

Picking through the manifestos, all three candidates touched on combating match-fixing, and also discrimination of all kinds under the "racism" banner. However, apart from van Praag mentioning during his manifesto launch that the KNVB were the first football association anywhere in the world to fully integrate the LGBT community into its workings, no explicit mention was to be found anywhere as to how the candidates would tackle homophobia, much less the problems faced by disabled players and fans. 

Prince Ali and van Praag did, however, state their intentions to increase funding for women's football, with the latter calling for equal representation in the boardroom as well as an increased female presence in the changing-room.

All three candidates proposed an increase in funding for each member association from US$375000 per annum to US$1 million (van Praag) or US$2 million (Figo). Van Praag stated his intention to draw up a list of the 50 most vulnerable national associations within FIFA and to set about improving their infrastructures. Figo claimed in his manifesto that 150 national associations would benefit from an extra US$300 million set aside for infrastructure projects. Prince Ali didn't crunch numbers in his manifesto, but did state that there would be a substantial increase in funding for those associations in most need.

All three candidates included in their manifestos the requirement for development centres to be set up world-wide, with one being located within each member confederation. Said centres would be used to help hone the skills and knowledge of players, coaches and referees alike. 

This would certainly benefit the OFC member states, but the development centre would have to be located somewhere such as Fiji in order to facilitate less-arduous journeys for visitors from across Oceania and beyond. A regional hub would also be a boon for football in the Caribbean, which, like the OFC, has a large number of teams in the lower reaches of the FIFA rankings.

There was a glimmer of hope in Figo's manifesto when the following header appeared: "I want to bring back unity in world football and to work together to improve and develop the beautiful game across all territories." Did this mean that he would actively tackle the issues put to him in the aforementioned e-mail? Would he co-operate with the NF-Board and ConIFA? Er, no; he merely stated his willingness to work together with all (member) confederations and member associations.

Luis Figo called for an "open debate" on increasing the number of competing nations at future World Cups to as many as 48, whilst van Praag promised to work towards a future 40-team World Cup Finals, with each confederation gaining an extra place. Prince Ali was in favour of a "gradual extension" of the World Cup. Van Praag's proposal was the closest that any of the candidates came to confirming that, sometime during their hypothetical term in office, the OFC would receive a guaranteed place at any and all future World Cup Finals tournaments.

However, this was not explicitly mentioned in his manifesto, which, pound for pound, was actually the most impressive of the three issued by the candidates, but that, of course, is no guarantee of success. Despite a very solid manifesto, van Praag's campaign will probably be hamstrung by the fact that he is not very well-known outside European circles. Luis Figo will, perhaps fifteen years down the line, make a good candidate for the UEFA presidency, but is nowhere near ready for the rigours of that post, nor those of the FIFA presidency.

The smart money seems to be on Prince Ali taking on Sepp Blatter in a presidential second round. The Jordanian is good for a fair few votes from the Middle East; he is, after all, not only president of the Jordanian FA but also president of the West Asian Football Federation as well as a vice-president of FIFA. His campaign was supported by his home country's association, the FA, the Maltese FA, the USSF and the Belarus and Georgian football associations. 

The MFA president, Norman Darmanin Demajo, endorsed Prince Ali's campaign by saying that the Jordanian understood the needs of the smaller countries. Prince Ali recently returned the compliment, saying that Darmanin Demajo was the inspiration behind his campaign. It remains to be seen whether Prince Ali will go on to fight Sepp Blatter in a winner-takes-the-FIFA-presidency contest, and, if successful, whether he will truly fight the corner of FIFA's smallest member associations, and those who are not (yet) part of football's biggest global family.
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STOP PRESS: It now appears as though, for the time being, four have become three. As this article was being finished, it was reported that Michael van Praag has withdrawn his candidacy for FIFA's top post, and he shall be making his reasons for his decision clear at a press-conference to be held tonight (21/5/15) at Amsterdam's Hilton Hotel. Van Praag will be throwing his weight behind Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein's campaign; Prince Ali shall also be attending the press-conference. For the little that it is worth, especially now, your correspondent's vote (had he had one) would have gone to van Praag.
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Although none of the candidates for the post of FIFA president provided direct answers to the questions posed in the above article, thanks go to Sebastiaan van der Laan (on behalf of Michael van Praag's campaign team) and Laura Church (representing Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein's campaign team) for their responses.








Monday, May 18, 2015

2015 NATWEST ISLAND GAMES FIXTURE-LIST (MEN'S TOURNAMENT)

The fixture-list for the 2015 NatWest Island Games men's tournament, to be held in Jersey in June, was released in late March, and features teams representing sixteen islands split into groups of four. The tournament kicks off on 28/6/15 with the Group A encounter between Greenland and Menorca at the Le Boulivot ground in Grouville. The two teams last met at the 2011 NatWest Island Games, which were held in the Isle of Wight; Menorca won 3 goals to 2.

Since then, Greenland finished runners-up to hosts Bermuda in 2013 after a competition consisting of just four teams - the Falkland Islands and Frøya being the others. Greenland will be hard-pressed to replicate their achievement this time around, as the other teams in their group - Åland, Menorca - who will be hosting the NatWest Island Games in 2019 - and Saaremaa finished the 2011 tournament ahead of Greenland.

Gibraltar will be sending their under-23 team to compete in Jersey, and will be up against Gotland, Guernsey and Ynys Môn (Anglesey) in Group B. The clash between the team from the Rock and the Channel Island will be intriguing; the Gibraltar FA, which is, of course, the most recent addition to UEFA's ranks, whilst Guernsey will mostly comprise of Guernsey FC, the side which appears in the Isthmian League, the eighth level of English football.

Gibraltar won the competition for the first time in 2007, and Guernsey last won it in 2003. Ynys Môn have appeared in the final on five different occasions (the last being in 2001 when they lost to Guernsey), winning only once, in 1999. Gotland have yet to reach the last four of an Island Games tournament.

The Isle of Wight, who won the competition in 2011 for the first time since 1993, will be favourites to qualify for the semi-finals from Group C, but the Shetland Islands, making their first appearance since 2009, will be fancied to finish second. However, the Falkland Islands, who finished third in Bermuda last time out, defeating Frøya 6:0 to lift the Small Islands Trophy in the process (Frøya are, like Bermuda, not competing this year), will be hoping to defeat the Norwegian island's neighbours Hitra, who are making a welcome return to the competition having last competed in 1999.

The keenly-awaited Channel Islands' derby between Jersey and Alderney at Springfield will, together with the match between the Western Isles and the Isle of Man, start the ball rolling in Group D. Alderney hosted Jersey in the semi-final of this year's Muratti Cup at the end of March but lost by five goals to nil, and it will be difficult to envisage Alderney gaining a point in what should be a very tight group. 

Sadly for neutral fans, one Channel Island which shall not be taking part in this year's tournament is Sark. Secretary and co-chairman Chris Drillot informed Pat's Football Blog that they "shall not be sending a team as [they currently] do not have enough players to make it. We are just about getting enough [players] to carry on playing friendlies." A large percentage of the players in the Sark FC team are seasonal workers and, according to Section 6 ("Conditions for Representing a Member Island") of the IGA's Operational Guidelines, are therefore disqualified from competing in the competition.  

Please find below the fixture-list for the 2015 NatWest Island Games Men's football tournament.

GROUP A

Åland, Greenland, Menorca, Saaremaa

28/06/15 12:30 Greenland : Menorca (Le Boulivot)
28/06/15 16:30 Saaremaa : Åland (Le Boulivot)
29/06/15 12:30 Åland : Greenland (Le Couffardiere)
29/06/15 16:30 Menorca : Saaremaa (Le Couffardiere)
30/06/15 15:00 Åland : Menorca (Le Couffardiere)
30/06/15 15:00 Greenland : Saaremaa (Le Boulivot)

GROUP B

Gibraltar, Gotland, Guernsey, Ynys Môn

28/06/15 13:30 Gibraltar : Gotland (Rue des Vignes)
28/06/15 17:30 Ynys Môn : Guernsey (Rue des Vignes)
29/06/15 13:30 Guernsey : Gotland (Le Squendez)
29/06/15 14:00 Gibraltar : Ynys Môn (Springfield Stadium)
30/06/15 13:00 Gotland : Ynys Môn (Rue des Vignes)
30/06/15 13:00 Gibraltar : Guernsey (Springfield Stadium)

GROUP C

Falkland Islands, Hitra, Isle of Wight, Shetland Islands

28/06/15 16:30 Falkland Islands : Hitra (St. John's Recreation Ground)
28/06/15 16:30 Shetland Islands : Isle of Wight (Le Couvent)
29/06/15 17:30 Isle of Wight : Falkland Islands (La Cache es Fresnes)
29/06/15 17:30 Hitra : Shetland Islands (Le Squendez)
30/06/15 16:30 Isle of Wight : Hitra (Le Couvent)
30/06/15 16:30 Falkland Islands : Shetland Islands (Rue des Vignes)

GROUP D

Alderney, Isle of Man, Jersey, Western Isles

28/06/15 13:00 Western Isles : Isle of Man (Le Couvent)
28/06/15 13:00 Jersey : Alderney (Springfield Stadium)
29/06/15 13:30 Isle of Man : Alderney (La Cache es Fresnes)
29/06/15 18:00 Jersey : Western Isles (Springfield Stadium)
30/06/15 18:00 Jersey : Isle of Man (Springfield Stadium)
30/06/15 18:00 Alderney : Western Isles (St. John's Recreation Ground)

PLACING (PLAY-OFF) MATCHES

02/07/15 12:00 (Le Couffardiere)
02/07/15 12:00 (La Cache es Fresnes)
02/07/15 13:30 (Les Squendez)
02/07/15 16:00 (Le Couffardiere)
02/07/15 16:00 (La Cache es Fresnes)
02/07/15 17:30 (Le Squendez)

NOTE: The exact schedule (for, e.g., the fifth-place play-off) was unknown at the time of writing.

SEMI-FINALS 

02/07/15 14:00 (Springfield Stadium)
02/07/15 18:00 (Springfield Stadium)

THIRD-PLACE PLAY-OFF 

03/07/15 12:00 (Rue des Vignes)

FINAL


03/07/15 14:00 (Springfield Stadium)

LIST OF GROUNDS/STADIA 

Springfield Stadium (St. Helier)
Rue des Vignes (St. Peter)
Le Squendez (St. Brelade)
Le Couffardiere (St. Clement)
St. John's Recreational Ground (St. John)
Le Boulivot (Grouville)
Le Couvent (St. Lawrence)
La Cache es Fresnes (St. Ouen) 

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to Andy Varnon, General Secretary of the Island Games Association, for his kind assistance with regard to the above article. Much of the above information was gleaned from the jersey2015.com website. 

Other information was taken from the Island Games Association website, personal archives and the Jersey FA website. Thanks, too, to Sark FC's Chris Drillot; it is a pity that Sark will be unable to compete in Jersey this year, but good luck to him and the team for the summer season.

To peruse the Operational Guidelines of the Island Games Association, please visit the following link on the IGA website:

http://www.iiga.org/media//constitution/Operational%20Guidelines%20April%202014.pdf


As ever, errors and/or omissions shall be taken care of upon notification of same.



Sunday, April 26, 2015

2015 COPPA VATICANA (COPPA SERGIO VALCI) FIXTURE-LIST

The 2015 edition of the Vatican City FA Cup, the Coppa Sergio Valci, got under way on 13/4/15. The same seven teams which competed in the 2014-15 Campionato Vaticano are taking part in this year's cup competition. San Pietro will be looking to retain the trophy, whilst newly-crowned champions Musei Vaticani are well-placed to add to their three previous cup wins, the last of which came in 2009.

San Pietro have begun their campaign as though they mean business; they trounced Guardia 9:0, this coming just over a month after they thrashed them 11:1 in the last game of the regular season. San Pietro's leading scorer in the league season just past, Chirieletti, bagged five of them, with Goxhaj, who was third in the list, featuring among the other goalscorers. Santos got their own campaign off to a winning start, defeating Dirtel 4:0; Rossi, who was joint fourth in the league goalscoring charts, scored twice. Musei Vaticani defeated Fortitudo/Pantheon 2:0 to complete the first round of matches.

The Vatican City national team will be quite busy during the coming months. The Nazionale Italiana Sindaci basically translates as the Italian Municipal Mayors' national team, which has played matches in the name of the Associazione Nazionale Comuni d’Italia (ANCI, or the National Association of Italian Municipalities). They lost 2:0 to the Vatican City side in Trapani in April 2014.

Azzurri Schaan are the reserve team of Liechtenstein club FC Schaan, and were founded in May 1970 by Italian migrant workers. The team regularly participates in the LFV-Pokal alongside its parent club, which is currently playing in Switzerland's 2. Liga (sixth level of Swiss football).

The Campo Cardinal Spellman is scheduled to play host to the game against Azzurri Schaan, and also for the fixture against a team representing the German town of Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Wittenberg was the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation and is most famous for Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the town's All Saints' Church in 1517. 

Please find below the fixture-list for the 2015 Coppa Sergio Valci and 2015 Supercoppa Vaticana, plus the forthcoming (provisional) fixture-list for the Vatican City national team.


13/4/15 20:00 Dirtel 0:4 Santos
13/4/15 21:00 Fortitudo/Pantheon 0:2 Musei Vaticani
14/4/15 21:00 Guardia 0:9 San Pietro
20/4/15 20:00 San Pietro : Dirtel
20/4/15 21:00 Ass. SS P&P : Fortitudo/Pantheon
21/4/15 21:00 Musei Vaticani : Guardia
27/4/15 20:00 Fortitudo/Pantheon : San Pietro
27/4/15 21:00 Dirtel : Ass. SS P&P
28/4/15 21:00 Guardia : Santos
04/5/15 20:00 Santos : Ass. SS P&P
04/5/15 21:00 Fortitudo/Pantheon : Dirtel
05/5/15 21:00 San Pietro : Musei Vaticani
11/5/15 20:00 Musei Vaticani : Dirtel
11/5/15 21:00 Santos : San Pietro
12/5/15 21:00 Ass. SS P&P : Guardia
18/5/15 20:00 San Pietro : Ass. SS P&P
18/5/15 21:00 Musei Vaticani : Santos
19/5/15 21:00 Guardia : Fortitudo/Pantheon
25/5/15 20:00 Santos : Fortitudo/Pantheon
25/5/15 21:00 Ass. SS P&P : Musei Vaticani
26/5/15 21:00 Dirtel : Guardia

SEMI-FINALS

01/6/15 20:00 2nd : 3rd (SF1)
01/6/15 21:00 1st : 4th (SF2)

FINAL

08/6/15 20:00 SF1 : SF2


SUPER COPPA VATICANA

15/6/15 20:00 Musei Vaticani : Winner of Coppa Sergio Valci


VATICAN CITY FIXTURE-LIST (current as of 25/4/15)

14/5/15 11:30 Campo di Albano Laziale Vatican City : Nazionale Italiana Sindaci
18/6/15 20:00 Campo Cardinal Spellman Vatican City : Azzurri Schaan
04/7/15 19:00 Campo Cardinal Spellman Vatican City : Lutherstadt Wittenberg 

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks as always to the ACDV (Attività Calcistica Dipendenti Vaticani) and Aurelio for the fixture-lists contained in the above article. Other information was taken from the Nazionale Italiana Sindaci, Swiss FA and Schaan Azzurri websites.







Saturday, April 11, 2015

SAN MARINO'S NATIONAL TEAM PLAYS ON, BUT THE STORY REMAINS THE SAME

The players strike in San Marino has ended after it was agreed that discussions would take place between the FSGC (Federazione Sammarinese Giuoco Calcio - the San Marino FA) and the ASC (Associazione Sammarinese Calciatori, or the Sammarinese Footballers' Association) regarding a number of demands, which had been presented by the players' association over the last few months, which they claimed were not responded to by the FSGC.

On 17/3/15, a delegation from the ASC consisting of president Gian Luca Bollini, vice-president Andy Selva plus committee members Davide Simoncini met with San Marino's Secretary for Tourism and Sport Teodoro Lonferini at the latter's office and explained their stance to him. Secretary of State Lonferini agreed to convey a message from the ASC to FSGC president Crescentini requesting that both sides meet to discuss the players' demands.

The next day, the strike, which had been called on 13/3/15 (see previous article here on Pat's Football Blog - "Trouble Brewing in San Marino": http://patmcguinness.blogspot.nl/2015/03/trouble-brewing-in-san-marino.html), was lifted, at least temporarily, when the FSGC agreed to consider the players' demands and organise a series of discussions covering the relevant topics, which are due to take place from 13/4/15. These meetings will be aimed at addressing the players' demands and improving footballing standards in all walks of Sammarinese footballing life from youth level through to women's and national team levels.

On 24/3/15, vice-president of the ASC Andy Selva responded to a report carried on the RTV San Marino website, which claimed that the ASC had demanded an annual payment of some €98000 from the FSGC to help cover its activities, by requesting that the television station's director, Carlo Romeo, issue an apology for what he called a "false and unfounded" report. Romeo duly obliged, and added that, although the report came from what he called "a reliable source," the ASC had never mentioned the issue of financial assistance from the FSGC in any way, shape or form.

The San Marino team headed off to Ljubljana on 25/3/15 to take on Slovenia in their Euro 2016 qualifying match, though regular goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini was forced out of the team due to illness. The Libertas shotstopper's place was taken by Elia Benedettini from Murata, who would be making his first senior appearance for his country. 

On the day of the game, Secretary of State Lonferini expressed the hope that La Serenissima would, despite recent events, give a good account of themselves in the Slovenian capital, and, early on, Tre Penne midfielder Giovanni Bonini delivered the first shot in anger from the right-hand side after two minutes, which went a couple of yards wide. It was to prove San Marino's only attempt on goal throughout the entire 90 minutes.

San Marino went behind after ten minutes after Josef Ilicic was allowed to run through the defence, round Benedettini and stroke the ball into the empty net, and were under the cosh for the entire first half. Benedettini performed well, and, with the assistance on two occasions of the woodwork, ensured that his team went in at half-time only the one goal behind.


Any hopes that San Marino could perhaps eke out a surprise result were snuffed out within seven minutes of the restart, when Slovenia scored three goals in as many minutes through Kevin Kampl, Andraz Struna and Milivoje Novakovic as the visitors' defence crumbled. Just after the hour, Mirko Palazzi's cross from the left found Pier Filippo Mazza free at the far side of the penalty-area.

However, instead of having a shot on goal himself, he elected to chip the ball towards the centre of the Slovenian penalty-area where Andy Selva and José Hirsch were in space, but the ball was headed clear by a Slovenian defender.

Slovenia went on to add a further two goals in the last 20 minutes, courtesy of Dejan Lazarevic and Branko Ilic as the constant pressure on the San Marino defence told; the hosts had 46 attempts on goal during the course of the match. Despite conceding six goals in what was a record margin of victory for the home team, Benedettini was still very much the star man for Pierangelo Manzaroli's side on the night, pulling off no fewer than twelve saves.


Aldo Simoncini was back between the sticks for San Marino the following Tuesday afternoon, when La Serenissima went to Liechtenstein to take on the locals in a friendly, which took place in the village of Eschen, and they started brightly enough with some early pressure on the hosts which, after a scramble in the box, resulted in Danilo Rinaldi forcing Jehle into a save.

Simon Kühne and Martin Buchel had efforts from outside the box for the home team which were comfortably saved by Simoncini, whist Andy Silva had a go for San Marino from outside the box after 10 minutes which was no problem for Jehle. Dennis Salanovic went on a run down the left and prodded in a shot from 6 yards which trickled past Simoncini's right-hand post.

Kühle found himself clear on the right-hand side of the San Marino penalty-area in the 27th minute, but Alessandro Della Valle blocked his shot just in time. The resulting corner was floated in over the mass of bodies in the six-yard area and found Dennis Hartmann, who, standing all alone some five yards out from an unguarded far post having escaped the attentions of Fabio Vitaioli, headed the ball home with ease to give Liechtenstein the lead. 

The Serenissima were guilty of ball-watching, leaving the far post unguarded and being as static as a bunch of concrete poles, and the reaction of captain Andy Selva after the goal said it all: a shake of the head and a face which read "here we go again."

Liechtenstein were in the ascendancy as far as possession was concerned, but were unable to fashion a clear-cut chance to double their lead. San Marino should have been on level terms going in at the break; a ball from the half-way line was collected by Selva on the right-hand side, and his cross-pass just outside the penalty-area was met by Mirko Palazzi, who got his shot on target only for Jehle to parry it out towards the onrushing Danilo Rinaldi, who although off-balance, should have done better than to spoon the ball high and wide from seven yards out.

The second-half began rather scrappily, and Fabio Vitaioli's dangerous free-kick from central midfield evaded the Liechtenstein defence, but also Selva and Davide Simoncini and floated wide. On the hour, a corner from the right was flicked on by Basler, but Simoncini punched the ball clear at his left-hand post. 

A period of scrappy play and a raft of substitutions followed, but, with 10 minutes left, La Serenissima almost equalised when Lorenzo Gasperoni tapped a free-kick into the path of Vitaioli, whose rasping shot from distance was well tipped over by substitute 'keeper Benjamin Büchel.

There were no more real efforts on goal from either team, and Liechtenstein ran out 1:0 winners, which was some comfort to them after they were swept aside at home the previous Friday by neighbours Austria, who scored five without reply. For San Marino, however, it was the same old story.

A  1:0 win for the hosts was probably the right result, though San Marino did have their chances in a game where chances were few and far between. Vitaioli and Davide Simoncini were possibly the two best players on the pitch for the men in white, who played with purpose and no little tenacity but were lacking a little putch upfront.

It has been claimed in the past by sections of the English media that the standard of football in San Marino has not improved in recent years, but has actually gone backwards. Rather than going backwards, the standard has perhaps stalled whilst most of the rest of European football has progressed, and there are, in the humble opinion of your correspondent, various reasons for this.

San Marino has a population of some 33000 people, which intimates that the country has an extremely small pool of adult footballers of Sammarinese origin; there are also a large number of Italians and other foreign nationals taking part in national competitions. 

The country has an notoriously and extremely strict citizenship policy; for example, a foreign national can only obtain Sammarinese citizenship after having lived in the republic for a period of not less than 30 years (unless married to someone with Sammarinese nationality, in which case the required period of residency is reduced to 15 years).

One of the reasons for the players' strike in March was the failure of the FSGC to act on various proposals aimed at improving the standard of football in the country; Andy Selva, vice-president of the ASC (L'Associazione Sammarinese Calciatori), said at the time that players trained "2 to 3 times per week," and that the country had not produced a "decent player in the last 30 years." 

This brings to mind a quote, made several years ago by former Luxembourg national team manager Paul Phillippe, then manager of F91 Dudelange, who criticised the fitness standards of Tre Penne players after his team comprehensively defeated the Sammarinese club side over two legs of a European tie, saying that their opponents "did not have to be good, but they at least had to be fit."

Taking into account Selva's comments, the national team's players will need to train 4 or 5 times per week, but this might not sit well with the employers of those who are currently working in evening jobs. However, the needs of those toiling at night could be catered for by the provision of morning or afternoon training-sessions on a full-time basis, with said sessons being open, not just for players of national team standard but for Sammarinese players of all abilities, which would help bring up the standard in the country as a whole.

Perhaps it is time to bring in some form of long-term assistance from outside the country; this may well come up at some stage during the proposed series of meetings between the FSCG and the ASC. This does not mean that national team manager Pierangelo Manzaroli should be sacked, but that he should be given every assistance necessary to be able to carry out his duties in the best possible manner. 

There does not appear to be any form of an agreement or partnership between the FSGC and their Italian counterparts (the FIGC); it would surely not do any harm for the FSGC to explore this avenue, or to approach UEFA for help should they find it necessary to do so. For the moment, however, it is up to the FSGC and the ASC to help each other in order to come to some sort of agreement as to how to move football forward in San Marino at all levels; progress must surely follow.

Encouragement can be gleaned from the performance of their under-16 side at the recent UEFA development tournament in Gibraltar, where they lost 3:0 to the hosts despite dominating large swathes of the game. They then lost 1:0 to Macedonia before defeating Malta 2:1, a victory which was apparently richly deserved.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Apart from gleaning information from the RTV San Marino website, information was also gathered from the UEFA website and that of Volksblatt.li. With regard to San Marino's citizenship laws, kindly go to the following link, where those of you with a much better grasp of Italian can read all about the subject:

http://www.esteri.sm/on-line/en/home/stay-and-residence-permits.html


As ever, the fault for any errors/omissions lies at the door of the author (apologies in advance); these shall be amended/inserted as soon as any notification of same is received.












Thursday, April 2, 2015

THE LONG WAIT IS OVER FOR MUSEI VATICANI

Reigning champions San Pietro were expected to win the 2014-15 edition of the Campionato Vaticano and continue their domination of national competition, which would have been their third championship title in a row.

However, they were denied at the last by Musei Vaticani who, by defeating them 2:1 in the championship final which took place on 30/3/15, ended what the English would quite possibly call their own "thirty-two years of hurt." Musei Vaticani were previously known as SS Hermes, and had previously won the Campionato Vaticano - for the one and only time - under that name back in 1983.

How the side representing the Vatican Museum will fare in this year's Coppa Sergio Valci is anyone's guess, but they will no doubt be among the front-runners to lift the trophy, along with San Pietro. The competition is due to commence on 13/4/15.

Please find below the list of results for the 2014-15 Campionato Vaticano.

REGULAR SEASON

13/10/14 19:45 Ass. SS P & P 1:6 San Pietro
13/10/14 20:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 1:3 Dirtel
14/10/14 20:45 Guardia 2:3 Santos
20/10/14 19:45 Musei Vaticani 1:2 Dirtel
20/10/14 20:45 San Pietro 2:2 Fortitudo/Pantheon 
21/10/14 20:45 Ass. SS P & P 3:2 Guardia
27/10/14 19:45 Santos 1:1 San Pietro
27/10/14 20:45 Dirtel 1:0 Ass. SS P & P
28/10/14 20:45 Guardia 1:2 Musei Vaticani
03/11/14 19:45 Ass. SS P & P 2:2 Fortitudo/Pantheon 
03/11/14 20:45 Musei Vaticani 0:0 Santos
04/11/14 20:45 Guardia 2:1 Dirtel
10/11/14 19:45 San Pietro 2:0 Musei Vaticani
10/11/14 20:45 Santos 3:1 Ass. SS P & P
11/11/14 20:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 1:2 Guardia
17/11/14 19:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 0:4 Santos
17/11/14 20:45 Dirtel 1:3 San Pietro
18/11/14 20:45 Musei Vaticani 4:0 Ass. SS P & P
24/11/14 19:45 Santos 2:3 Dirtel
24/11/14 20:45 Musei Vaticani 7:0 Fortitudo/Pantheon
25/11/14 20:45 Guardia 1:3 San Pietro
01/12/14 19:45 Dirtel 4:1 Fortitudo/Pantheon
01/12/14 20:45 San Pietro 3:0 Ass. SS P & P*
02/12/14 20:45 Santos 1:1 Guardia
02/02/15 19:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 2:3 San Pietro
02/02/15 20:45 Dirtel 3:2 Musei Vaticani
09/02/15 19:45 Ass. SS P & P 0:1 Dirtel
09/02/15 20:45 San Pietro 4:1 Santos
10/02/15 20:45 Musei Vaticani 4:1 Guardia
13/02/15 20:45 Guardia 3:0 Ass. SS P & P**
16/02/15 19:45 Musei Vaticani 2:1 Santos
16/02/15 20:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 3:0 Ass. SS P & P
17/02/15 20:45 Dirtel 2:1 Guardia
23/02/15 19:45 Ass. SS P & P 3:5 Santos
23/02/15 20:45 Musei Vaticani 4:3 San Pietro
24/02/15 20:45 Guardia 3:0 Fortitudo/Pantheon
02/03/15 19:45 San Pietro 0:0 Dirtel
02/03/15 20:45 Ass. SS P & P 0:3 Musei Vaticani
03/03/15 20:45 Santos 2:0 Fortitudo/Pantheon
09/03/15 19:45 Fortitudo/Pantheon 4:5 Musei Vaticani
09/03/15 20:45 Dirtel 2:5 Santos
10/03/15 20:45 San Pietro 11:1 Guardia

TEAM
P
W
D
L
GF
GA
PTS
GD
SAN PIETRO
12
8
3
1
41
14
27
27
DIRTEL
12
8
1
3
23
18
25
5
MUSEI VATICANI
12
8
1
3
34
17
25
17
SANTOS
12
6
3
3
28
19
21
9
Guardia
12
4
1
7
20
29
13
-9
Fortitudo/Pantheon
12
1
2
9
16
37
5
-21
Ass. SS P&P
12
1
1
10
10
37
4
-27
 

SEMI-FINALS

16/03/15 19:45 Santos (Morabito 3) 3:1 San Pietro (Goxhaj) (SF1)
16/03/15 20:45 Musei Vaticani (Marini, Cara) 2:1 Dirtel (Carilli) (SF2)
23/03/14 19:45 Dirtel 0:1 Musei Vaticani (Berdini) (1:3 on agg.) (SF2)
23/03/14 20:45 San Pietro*** (Goxhaj, Palmieri, Puoti) 3:1 Santos (4:4 on agg.) (SF1)

THIRD-PLACE FINAL

30/3/15 20:00 Dirtel (Lucarelli, Tiburzi) 2:2 Santos (Perinelli 2) (Dirtel 7:6 on penalties)

FINAL

30/03/15 19:45 San Pietro (Chirieletti) 1:2 Musei Vaticani (Quarta, Bnà)

TOP SCORERS

19 Quarta (Musei Vaticani)
12 Chirieletti (San Pietro)
10 Goxhaj (San Pietro)
8 Carilli (Dirtel)
8 Puoti (San Pietro)
8 Rossi (Santos)

*NOTE: Match was replayed after the first attempt to complete the fixture was unsuccessful, having been abandoned after 24 minutes due to a waterlogged pitch. Ass. SS P&P were leading 1:0 at the time.

**NOTE: The original fixture, due to be played ten days earlier, was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

***NOTE: San Pietro qualified for the final, despite both teams finishing level on aggregate, due to the fact that they topped the table at the end of the regular league season.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks, as always, to the ACDV (Attività Calcistica Dipendenti Vaticani) and Aurelio for kindly providing the above information. Any errors/omissions are, as ever, down to the author and corrections shall be made upon notification of same.