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Sunday, November 14, 2010


There are several drawbacks to living in an isolated community, particularly if you live on an island. Irregular postal deliveries are one such drawback, while internet and telephone services might not be up to the required standard. A lack of medical care as we know it in Western Europe could also be construed as a problem. But, what of a football team with no-one to play against?

This is the problem that faces the football-playing inhabitants of Tristan da Cunha, regarded as being the world's most isolated permanently-inhabited island, situated some 1509 miles from the nearest community, Jamestown on the island of St. Helena, and 1743 miles from Cape Town.

Tristan, as it is known to its inhabitants, was first sighted by the Portuguese sailor Tristao da Cunha in 1506 and came under British control in August 1816. Tristan has been pemanently settled since 1817, and the entire population - 265 people, at the time of writing (as stated on local website - is resident in the island's administrative centre, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.

The island's inhabitants have had much to endure down the years, from a lifeboat disaster in 1855 which claimed the lives of 15 men (wiping out virtually the entire adult male population) to a severe food shortage in 1906, a period of almost continuous isolation from the outside world during and immediately after World War I, and the volcanic eruption of 1961, which led to the entire population being evacuated to Southampton in England for some 18 months before being allowed back in stages from 1963.

Since then, the population has remained relatively constant at between 260-280 inhabitants, and it is a rapidly modernising population, with its own postcode, the availablity of television, internet, a landline telephone connection for all and a state-of-the-art fish-processing plant (which replaced the one burnt down in 2008) all coming to Tristan in the last 10 years.

A scientific monitoring station was also opened in August of this year, built on the site of what is reckoned to be the world's most isolated golf-course, a 9-hole affair at Hottentot Fence. It is not known when the golf course (reputed to be one of the world's worst) was created, but cricket is estimated to be the longest-played sport on the island.

Meanwhile, the first known written record of football being played on the island came in the book "The Lonely Island", first published in 1926, written by Rose Annie Rogers, wife of the Rev. Henry Rogers, both of whom were Anglican missionaries on Tristan from 1922-25.

The date is inexact, but the game seems to have been introduced there by Rev. Rogers around 1923, and, according to Mrs. Rogers, "[a large number of the] Tristan lads became immensely keen on football, and..would have liked a season to last all year round." She continued:"The games were usually very strenuous, and there was a good deal of cheerful noise about them."

The first kickabout against foreign opposition was played sometime during the 1940s, though details are scant. The exact location is unknown, but games have been played on the American Field, named in honour of US soldiers stationed there during the Second World War, in recent years.

The fearsomely-sloping American Field has played host to kickabouts featuring locals and staff from Royal Navy and South African fishing-boats; games were played as and when vessels called to the island.

It wasn't until June 2005 when the locals, under the tutelage of Leon Glass, got together and founded Tristan da Cunha FC (TDCFC for short). Glass takes up the story.

"I asked a few of the local lads who had enjoyed having kickabouts with visiting Navy teams if they would be interested in forming a team, They all agreed, though they said they would love to play in a proper kit."

"I then contacted our local fishing company, Ovenstone Agencies, to ask if they would be interested in sponsoring our kit. They agreed, and paid for the full kit and printing."

TDCFC's first match as a proper club, in their new strip if white shirts and blue shorts, was against a team representing the South African fishing-vessel Edinburgh. The team is drawn from around 15 people; they had hoped to begin with a 3-team 5-a-side league, but there was not sufficient interest in the idea.

An annual 6-a-side game is played between two teams on the island, however, and in this year's edition, TDC Tigers defeated Sharks 7:0, the goals coming from Steve Swain, who bagged a hat-trick, Patrick Green and Glass, who each scored a brace.

Fixtures for TDCFC are few, with Tristan da Cunha being so far off the beaten-track, and accessible only by landing-craft. As Glass, who in addition to being club manager, is also club captain, said recently, "TDCFC haven't played many games lately as we have no-one to play against. Maybe, in the next few months, a few Navy ships will pass and give us a game."

FOOTNOTE: The above article was compiled in August of this year, and was intended to be updated to include current events, but, due to circumstances outside the author's control, this has not yet been carried out.


  1. Pat, I've recently discovered your wonderful blog due to searching for info on football on Tristan da Cuhna. This is an excellent article, wonderfully detailed for what is quite an obscure footballing subject! I've linked to it in my short piece about football on the island ..

    World's remotest football pitch

    cheers, Karl

  2. Good evening chaps.

    I am due to go out to the island (new teacher) on a 2 year contract. I have coached a bit and work for Watford P/T. Hopefully will get involved. Good blog. I will try to post a bit when I get there. Watch this space.

  3. Hi Anonymous, thanks for the compliment and for the comments; if you would like to contribute to a follow-up (still some time away), please leave a message on the Pat's Football Blog page on Facebook and I'll get back to you. In the meantime, good luck on Tristan and enjoy the experience!