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Saturday, September 1, 2018

MARSHALL ISLANDS: STILL A GREY AREA ON THE INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL MAP

Six years ago, Pat's Football Blog received a document outlining the potential for a football structure in the Marshall Islands, an independent country in the Micronesia region of the Pacific, and wrote an article on its content, together with a few thoughts on the subject from Amy Sasser, a (then) representative of the Marshall Islands National Olympic Committee (MINOC), which is based in the nation's capital, Majuro.

Back then, Ms. Sasser told Pat's Football Blog that there was no organised football in the country, and was unaware of any football being played on Kwajalein Atoll, which also forms an integral part of the country but is the site of a US Army base, although the game has been played on Kwajalein for nigh on fifty years.

At a meeting held during July's Micronesian Games, which were held on the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) island of Yap, the Micronesian Games Council awarded the Marshall Islands the right to host the next Micronesian Games in 2022, with Majuro designated as the host venue. The Northern Marianas also expressed their interest in hosting the Games, but pulled out at the last minute, allowing the Marshall Islands the opportunity to host the gathering for the first time.

The Marshall Islands is one of the poorest countries in the world and lacks most of the sporting infrastructure needed to host an event such as the Micronesian Games; as a result, the government will be required to heavily invest in facilities. However, in a letter sent to the Micronesian Games Council's president Bill Keldermans in the run-up to the Council meeting, the country's president Hilda Heine stated that the nation's government was ready and able to provide the funding necessary to bring the nation's sporting infrastructure up to scratch.

President Heine wrote: "We understand that by taking responsibility to host the Micronesian Games we, the Marshall Islands Government, must also assume the responsibility to build the necessary facilities and infrastructure. The Marshall Islands Government is committed to provide the necessary budgetary requirements to support hosting the Micronesian Games."

In a country where space is at a premium, the construction of new sporting facilities might not be an easy task, but Ms. Heine added that the Micronesian Games "gives our youth positive alternatives and healthy outlets to express themselves."

In a presentation to the Micronesian Games Council in Yap on 22 July, the MINOC General Secretary Terry Sasser informed those gathered that facilities for basketball, beach volleyball, table-tennis, volleyball, weight-lifting, wrestling, canoe racing, Micronesian All-Round - which consists of Coconut tree-climbing, coconut grating and/or grating, running, diving, spear-fishing and swimming, and spear-fishing would be built or updated, along with tennis courts and two fast-pitch softball fields and a swimming pool. The budget for these improvements is an estimated US$4.5 million.

Sasser also laid out plans for an athletics track and grandstand, which, together with a car-park and other facilities, would be built on a man-made landfill within the Majuro Lagoon at an estimated cost of US$7.5 million.

An impressive legacy for the country's sportsmen of all ages and sporting preferences to inherit, one might think - and innovative to boot. Unfortunately, football might not be among those sports which will reap the benefits of the planned new stadium. Nor will it be played at the 2022 Micronesian Games, a spokesperson for the MINOC confirmed recently to Pat's Football Blog.  

When asked about the state of the game - or whether it was played - in the Marshall Islands, the spokesperson added that football "is not played in an organised fashion in the islands..we do not currently have the facilites or human resources to develop the sport of soccer at this time..There are no indoor facilities large enough, and only two outdoor spaces..that might be large enough for soccer. MINOC does not have funding for soccer and does not spend any of its funding on soccer."

They also stated that they have not personally seen any local interest in football, but were informed that there may be some, although if football is played in the islands, "it might be children playing unorganised pick-up games outdoors."

It was put to the spokesperson that perhaps CONIFA might be able to step in and offer logistical support to anyone in the Marshall Islands who would be interested in organising football in the country, whether they be within MINOC or without, and that MINOC could do some research on organisations outside the country which might be able to assist in this, but this - theoretical - option was dismissed. "MINOC's staff is already too busy managing/assisting the ten active sports we do have in [the Marshall Islands], so there is no-one who has the time to look into organisations who want [to help develop] soccer in the Republic of the Marshall Islands."

The Marshall Islands and MINOC have just four years to prepare for the 2022 Micronesian Games, and they will fly by. It is not imperative that football be included in the Games in four years' time, of course, or for football to be organised in some shape or form in the country during the next four years. 

It will most likely be up to individuals outside MINOC to organise football in the islands, probably through that most effective of media, word of mouth, and to take advantage of the opportunity offered to the country and its sporting public of hosting a prestigious international tournament and being able to use proper sporting facilites - thereby potentially increasing the number of active sports being played in the islands - somewhere actually big enough to host (international) football matches and satisfy FIFA's membership criteria.

But, organising football in the Marshall Islands will need MINOC's help, to some degree, at least, and that does not appear to be forthcoming. Could the hosting of the next Micronesian Games and the building of a new stadium turn out to be an opportunity wasted for the development of football there, and all because someone refused to countenance sitting down in front of a computer for a couple of hours in order to do some research?


_____________________________________________________________________________________________
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to the (unnamed) spokesperson from the Marshall Islands National Olympic Committee for their assistance.

Much of the information contained in the above article was taken from the Marshall Islands Journal, the Kaselehlie Press and the 2018 Micronesian Games website.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

POHNPEI WIN THE 2018 MICRONESIAN GAMES

The 2018 Micronesian Games recently took place on the island of Yap, in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and featured a relatively small yet very diverse number of sports, from spearfishing and Va'a canoeing to wrestling, athletics and football. Ten entities took part in the Games, which were held between 15-27 July: Yap, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Kosrae (all constituent parts of the FSM), Nauru, Kiribati, Northern Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands, Guam and Palau. 

Four teams competed in the football tournament, which took place between 23-26 July: Chuuk, Pohnpei, hosts Yap (all from the FSM), and Palau. The tournament was held at the Matson Yap Sports Complex in Gigil, some seven miles from the island capital, Colonia.

Both Kiribati and Nauru were slated to take part in the competition, but both withdrew from the tournament, apparently for financial reasons. For the Kiribati side, it was the second time in five months that they had done so: they were due to take part in the CONIFA Football World Cup, which was held in London from 31 May-9 June, but also scratched from that tournament.

Nauru went so far as to withdraw their entire team from the Games, although one athlete, Jonah Harris, decided to represent his island without any financial support and came away with five medals, a wonderful achievement in any circumstances.


The first match of the football tournament was a re-run of the 2014 final, when Pohnpei defeated Palau 3:1, and Pohnpei came out on top this time, too, by 2 goals to 1. Yap finished third in the group stage four years ago, but finished fourth and last after losing the third-place play-off to Chuuk. They got their revenge on home turf, winning 4:2 in what was the game with the highest number of goals in the tournement.

Chuuk defeated Palau 1:0 in a game which was the lowest-scoring of the tournament - and which was originally incorrectly reported by officials as a 1:0 victory for the Palauans, much to the consternation of some. (Mistakes can happen, though, so folk should not be too critical of the volunteer staff on duty at the games; we have all been there.) Next up came two draws for Pohnpei, which confirmed their progress to the final on goal-difference ahead of Chuuk. Yap joined them after defeating Palau in the final group-stage game.

Palau defeated Chuuk 2:0 in the third-place play-off, immediately before Pohnpei defeated the hosts in the final by the odd goal in five to secure their second Micronesian Games title. Unfortunately, the Pohnpeian side will not be able to defend their title at the next Micronesian Games, which are scheduled to be held in the Marshall Islands in 2022. A spokesperson for the Marshall Islands National Olympic Committee told Pat's Football Blog that football is not on the list of sports for the Games, due to there being no suitable facilities on the main island, Majuro. 


RESULTS - GROUP STAGE

23/07/18 Pohnpei 2:1 Palau
23/07/18 Yap 4:2 Chuuk
24/07/18 Chuuk 1:0 Palau
24/07/18 Pohnpei 2:2 Yap
25/07/18 Chuuk 1:1 Pohnpei
25/07/18 Yap 2:1 Palau

TEAM
P
W
D
L
GF
GA
PTS
GD
YAP
3
2
1
0
8
5
7
3
POHNPEI
3
1
2
0
5
4
5
1
Chuuk
3
1
1
1
4
5
4
-1
Palau
3
0
0
3
2
5
0
-3




THIRD-PLACE PLAY-OFF

26/07/18 Palau 2:0 Chuuk


FINAL

26/07/18 Yap 2:3 Pohnpei 

_____________________________________________________________________________________________
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to the staff of the Micronesian Games for their help with this article, to Roon Ba for their assistance with one or two of the results, and to the spokesperson for the Marshall Islands NOC for their help. Facebook and the Marshall Islands Journal were also perused.

Apologies for the lack of statistical information; this shall be rectified as and when more information has been received.





Friday, May 18, 2018

2018 CONIFA WORLD FOOTBALL CUP: FELVIDÉK, THE TEAM WHO COULD HAVE BEEN CONTENDERS



The historic region of Felvidék, better known in English as Upper Hungary, is to be found within modern-day Slovakia; it was once the northern part of the Kingdom of Hungary, and is home to the majority of Slovakia’s estimated 450000 Hungarians. The region was split from the rest of Hungary at the end of the First World War, and was incorporated into the newly-created Czechoslovakia.      
       
The town of Komárom is regarded as the seat of power for Slovakia's Hungarian population - and that of the country's tiny Serb minority - and is divided by the River Danube, which marks the modern-day border between Slovakia and Hungary. Komárom proper lies on the northern side of the river, while the southern side, best known for its fort, was once a separate town called Újszóny until it united with Komárom in 1896. 

The town was divided again after World War I, when, along with the rest of Upper Hungary, Komárom proper fell under the newly-created Czechoslovakia. It was returned to Hungary in 1938, but became Czech territory again in 1945. The northern portion of the town, home today to Slovakia's biggest shipbuilding company, is today better known by its Slovak name, Komárno, whilst the southern part remains known as Komárom; a case of "one town, two countries." 

Felvidék’s footballers were scheduled to make their first appearance at a World Football Cup tournament when they were due to take on Northern Cyprus on 31 May, and had come a long way since the Félvideki Labdarúgó Egyesulet (the Felvidék FA, or the FLE) was founded in 2014. Shortly afterwards, they joined ConIFA.  
   
They were runners-up in their first tournament, which was held in the Isle of Man in May 2015, and a month later finished fourth in the ConIFA Euro 2015, which took place in the Hungarian city of Debrecen. In June the following year, Felvidék took part in another two tournaments, the first of which was the EUROPEADA, a competition organized by FUEN (the Federal Union of European Nationalities), held in the Italian region of South Tirol, where they again finished in fourth place.              
                       
Following on from that, at the beginning of August 2016, came the Hungary Heritage Cup, which was contested by the four regions outside Hungary – Felvidék, Délvidék (northern Serbia), Kárpátalja (westernmost Ukraine) and the Székely Land (central Romania) - where ethnic Hungarians are in the majority. The small Hungarian town of Szarvas was the venue for the tournament, which was given added spice by the fact that the winners would qualify directly for the World Football Cup.        
                                                
In the first of two semi-finals, Felvidék drew 1:1 against Kárpátalja (Gábor Renczés scoring for Felvidék) before winning 5:4 on penalties. They would meet Délvidék in the final, who had defeated Székely Land 3:1 in the other semi. Ádám Érsek put Felvidék ahead from the penalty spot, though Délvidék equalised early in the second half. Zsolt Magyar coolly scored in the very last minute to make it 2:1 for Félvidek, delivering the team its first honour and sending it through to the World Football Cup finals.     
                    
One of the problems faced by teams such as Felvidék is that clubs can and do refuse to release their players for international matches, as the Felvidék FA does not fall under UEFA jurisdiction, and this was touched on Felvidék FA vice-president David Nágy during a  newspaper interview in 2017. Nágy said that he would like to solve this with help from the Slovak FA, but was grateful that clubs such as Slovak top division club DAC Dunajska Streda had shown an “exemplary attitude” towards Felvidék.
             
Several of those players who have been in action for Felvidék over the last two years or so have also been on the books at DAC Dunajska Streda, including Zsolt Németh, Laszló Töth and Gergely Varga. Rajmund Mikus plays for second-level AFC Nové Mesto nad Váhom, whilst Adalbert Áron Juhasz has played in Hungary for ETO Gyór. Zoltán Harsányi, now with Balmazújváros in the Hungarian top division. has been plying his trade across the border for several years now, while young compatriot (and another ex-DAC Dunajska Streda player) János Szépe has not only become a regular for Félvidek, but now also for MTE 1904, who play in the Hungarian second-level.

They would have all been looking to make an impact at the Football World Cup, but, sadly, none of the players mentioned above will now be taking part, as Felividék scratched from the tournament on 4 May due to what ConIFA described in a short statement as “internal organisational issues.” Their place will now be taken by Kárpátalja.

A report carried on the Sportolunk website, based in Slovakia, published on the day of Felvidék's withdrawal stated that FLE managing director David Nágy had said that the withdrawal had, in fact, been the result of continual financial difficulties since the association’s foundation and its inability to attract sponsors.
In any case, it is a shame that Felvidék will not be gracing the tournament, as they have proven stubborn opponents for most of the teams they have faced over the past four years, although scoring goals has at times been a problem. This might have proved costly in a group containing current ConIFA world champions Abkhazia, Northern Cyprus and Tibet.

Alas, we shall now never know how Félvidek would have got on, but the FLE will now hopefully set about restructuring and building an organisation with a sound financial base whilst gaining some sponsors along the way, which would be an improvement from the present situation, one where, in Nágy’s own words, “the sponsors are not lined up in front of us.. [and the FLE] have also had to cover the bulk of [their] expenses [themselves].” Despite this most disappointing of developments for Félvidek, the side has a good mix of youth and experience which is developing nicely, and this at least bodes well for the future.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________

AUTHOR'S NOTE: The bulk of the above article was written before Félvidek's withdrawal for another entity, who granted permission for it to be made public after Felvidék scratched from the World Football Cup. Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts to contact the Felvidék FA, no reply was forthcoming.

As ever, the information contained within was gleaned from a number of websites, Facebook, ConIFA and Twitter, whilst the quotes contained within were translated using an online translation website.


The ConIFA World Football Cup will run from 31 May to 9 June, and, although Felvidék won't be there, you could be; for tickets, go to:
http://www.conifa.org/en/wfc-2018/wfc-2018-tickets/








Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A FIRST VATICAN CITY LEAGUE TITLE FOR RAPPRESENTATIVA OPBG

It has been a successful last twelve months for Vatican side Rappresentiva OPBG (Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù); they caused a stir by winning last season's Vatican City cup competition, the Coppa Sergio Valci, following up a respectable third place in their first-ever league campaign.

Following on from that, they recently added this season's league championship to the Coppa Sergio Valci, and were in the top two all season. Musei Vaticani, Dirtel and Santos were all snapping at their heels at various stages of the season, but Musei Vaticani fell away badly as the season progressed, Dirtel took only one point from their last two games and Santos two from their last three, including a crucial 2:1 defeat to the hospital side.

There were two new teams taking part in the 2017-18 Vatican City league championship: Archivio and PUL (Pontificia Universitas Lateranense); however, Gendarmeria, Associazione SS Pietro & Paolo and Circolo San Pietro elected not to enter teams this season. PUL did well in their first season, finishing fourth, whilst Archivio finished bottom, having suffered a couple of heavy defeats along the way. Perennial strugglers Guardia finished one place above them but had an impressive run-in, remaining unbeaten in their last three matches, including draws with Santos and Musei Vaticani.

Please find below the list of results for the 2017-18 Vatican City league championship.


RESULTS

06/11/17 Musei Vaticani 1:1 Santos (Persechino; Alessandrini)
06/11/17 Rappresentativa OPBG 5:1 Archivio (Gregori 2, Baiocco, Privato, Matano; Salvati)
07/11/17 Fortitudo 2007 1:3 Dirtel (Sperati; Goxhaj 2, Chirieletti)
07/11/17 PUL 2:1 Guardia (Chiamore, Curati De Pietro; Kolly)
13/11/17 Santos 3:2 PUL (Perinelli 2, Quarta; Salvato 2)
13/11/17 Guardia 1:5 Fortitudo 2007 (Rohn; Sperati 2, Palmieri, Cafiero, Antonelli)
14/11/17 Dirtel 1:2 Rappresentativa OPBG (Goxhaj; Di Cecca, Monopoli)
14/11/17 Archivio 0:3 Musei Vaticani (Berdini 2, Panella)
20/11/17 Dirtel 2:0 Archivio (Goxhaj 2)
20/11/17 Rappresentativa OPBG 1:1 Guardia (Gregori; Borragine)
21/11/17 PUL 0:1 Musei Vaticani (Lorizio)
21/11/17 Fortitudo 2007 3:3 Santos (Quarta 2, Quercellini; Sperati 3)
27/11/17 Archivio 2:5 PUL (Zenobi, Perucci; Menesto 3, Chiamore, Tumiel)
27/11/17 Guardia 1:3 Dirtel (Sibold; Goxhaj 2, Chirieletti)
28/11/17 Santos 0:1 Rappresentativa OPBG (Monopoli)
28/11/17 Musei Vaticani 2:0 Fortitudo 2007 (Berdini, Marini)
04/12/17 Rappresentativa OPBG 1:0 Musei Vaticani (Baiocco)
04/12/17 Fortitudo 2007 4:2 PUL (Palmieri 3, Sperati; Scaccia, Chiamori)
05/12/17 Dirtel 1:0 Santos (Goxhaj)
05/12/17 Guardia 3:3 Archivio (Borragine 2, Germiquet; Pasquazzo 2, Albertini)
11/12/17 Musei Vaticani 0:0 Dirtel
11/12/17 Santos 2:0 Guardia (Cittadini 2)
12/12/17 Fortitudo 2007 4:2 Archivio (Sperati 4; Pasquazzo, Di Pietro)
12/12/17 PUL 2:2 Rappresentativa OPBG (Salvato 2; Monaco 2)
18/12/17 Rappresentativa OPBG 1:0 Fortitudo 2007 (Buonsenso)
18/12/17 Guardia 0:5 Musei Vaticani (Berdini, Bnà, Marini, Persichino, Secone)
19/12/17 Dirtel 3:2 PUL (Carilli, Goxhaj, Chirieletti; Salvato 2)
19/12/17 Archivio 0:5 Santos (Pesci 3, Pirinelli 2)
22/01/18 Dirtel 1:1 Fortitudo 2007 (Chirieletti; Sperati)
22/01/18 Santos 4:1 Musei Vaticani (Quarta 2, Calvano, Pesci; Panella)
23/01/18 Archivio 1:2 Rappresentativa OPBG (Salvati; Faggiano, Lembo)
23/01/18 Guardia 0:4 PUL (Salvato 2, Scaccia, Tumiel)
29/01/18 Musei Vaticani 1:1 Archivio (Berdini; Salvati)
29/01/18 Rappresentativa OPBG 0:1 Dirtel (Chirieletti)
30/01/18 PUL 1:4 Santos (Turchetta; Ioannilli 2, Quarta 2)
30/01/18 Fortitudo 2007 3:0 Guardia (Sperati 2, Antonelli)
05/02/18 Santos 3:1 Fortitudo 2007 (Ioannilli 2, Quarta; Grecco)
05/02/18 Musei Vaticani 0:1 PUL (Elia)
06/02/18 Archivio 1:3 Dirtel (Di Pietro; Goxhaj 2, Pacenza)
06/02/18 Guardia 0:7 Rappresentativa OPBG (Della Porta 3, Matano 3, Buonsenso)
12/02/18 Fortitudo 2007 1:2 Musei Vaticani (Sperati; Panella, Lorizio)
12/02/18 Rappresentativa OPBG 2:1 Santos (Della Porta, OG; Calvano)
13/02/18 PUL 6:0 Archivio (Curati Di Pietro, Rita, Tumiel, Elia, Angelini, Petrelli)
13/02/18 Dirtel 2:1 Guardia (Chirieletti 2; Sibold)
19/02/18 Santos 2:0 Dirtel (Quarta, Casciani)
20/02/18 PUL 1:0 Fortitudo 2007 (Tumiel)
20/02/18 Musei Vaticani 1:2 Rappresentativa OPBG (Lorizio; Di Cecca, Faggiano)
05/03/18 Rappresentativ OPBG 0:1 PUL (Bocci)
05/03/18 Archivio 0:2 Fortitudo 2007 (Sperati, Grecco)
06/03/18 Dirtel 0:1 Musei Vaticani (Berdini)
06/03/18 Guardia 0:0 Santos
12/03/18 Archivio 2:4 Guardia (Pasquazzo 2; Cina, Borregine, Burch, Bussinger)
20/03/18 Santos 2:2 Archivio (Lucarelli, Cetta; Salvati)
20/03/18 PUL 1:1 Dirtel (Chiamori; Pacenza)
21/03/18 Fortitudo 2:2 Rappresentativa OPBG (Palmieri, OG; Matano, Orlando)
21/03/20 Musei Vaticani 2:2 Guardia (Paolone, Berdini; Sibold 2)
 


TEAM
P
W
D
L
b
aGF
GA
PTS
GD
RAPPRESENTATIVA OPBG
14
10
2
2
28
11
32
17
Dirtel
14
8
3
3
21
13
27
8
Santos
14
7
4
3
30
15
25
15
PUL
14
7
2
5
29
21
23
8
Musei Vaticani
14
6
4
4
20
13
22
7
Fortitudo 2007
14
5
2
7
26
23
17
3
Guardia
14
1
4
9
14
41
7
-27
Archivio
14
0
3
11
16
43
3
-27



* Match rearranged from 19/02/18 

TOP SCORERS

16 Flaviano SPERATI (Fortitudo 2007)
11 Armando GOXHAJ (Dirtel)
9  Alessandro QUARTA (Santos)
8 Carmine SALVATO (PUL)


______________________________________________________________________________________________
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks as always to the ACDV (Attività Calcistica del Dipendenti Vaticani - the Vatican City FA) for kindly passing on the above information. At the time of writing, the Vatican City FA Cup, the Coppa Sergio Valci, is under way. A report on same will appear here in due course.