Total Pageviews

Monday, March 16, 2015


With less than a fortnight to go until San Marino's national side travel to Slovenia to take on their Euro 2016 opponents in Ljubljana, preparations have been thrown into disarray by the country's recently-formed players union (L'Associazione Sammarinese Calciatori or ASC) taking the decision on 13/3/15 to go on strike.

ASC president Luca Bollini told San Marino RTV that the decision to strike had not been an easy one to take, but was "necessary" and had been taken following the lack of a response to a series of proposals delivered to the FSGC (San Marino FA) last September. 

Said proposals concerned areas such as the national team, women's football in the country, Futsal, the coaching of children, the implementation of a proper physiotherapy system, the appointment of a team manager, and the national championship. A letter was apparently forwarded to the FSGC complaining of "a lack of dialogue with the [FSGC] in the person of the General Secretary (Luciano Casadei)."

Bollini added that the ASC had consistently sought dialogue with the FSGC, and had sought a response from the San Marino FA's board with regard to the projects they had proposed, but have yet to receive a response. "Since we founded the Association, we have always sought dialogue throughout the movement. We want there to be an open dialogue, the movement is growing, we are the protagonists and we have the right to be heard."

A training session under national team manager Pierangelo Manzaroli is due to be held on 16/3/15, but, at the time of writing, it appears as though it will, at best, be sparsely attended. "I'm sorry to have arrived at such a point less than 20 days before such an important game," Bollini said, "but if you don't take such a position you won't get anywhere."

Vice-president of the ASC and record goalscorer for La Serenissima Andy Selva went further, saying that the association "never thought we would have to go so far. But. if on one hand we are sorry, on the other we have to protect our players. We presented 7 or 8 projects [to the FSGC] but we have never been taken into account."

"We presented the projects in September and we still don't know whether they are being approved or discussed. We are on strike as from yesterday (14/3/15). We expect a confrontation with the federation..and should the situation remain as it is, we will not turn up for training on Monday (16/3/15)."

In an article which appeared on the website of Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Selva was reported as saying: "We want to collaborate to improve football, if our football hasn't produced a player [of quality] in the last thirty years, there has to be a reason for this. We aren't looking to dictate things, but to discuss them. We have a project which we would like to be examined by the [FSGC] board."

"For example? It isn't right that a player should receive €60 for playing in a friendly in Liechtenstein [this match is due to take place in Eschen-Mauren four days after the game in Ljubljana], then have to pay taxes and take two days off work. It's trivial, but this is what happens to us."

Selva also repeated the above to another news organisation, and also questioned why there wasn't a supervisory body for technical matters, and whether managers have the correct coaching qualifications. He also said that the players "are not represented on the [FSGC] board. The federation says that we must be elected by a club, but we are not able to wait a year to present a draft..We are willing to co-operate, we are a group of players willing to improve our football..We are here to discuss things, not make the rules. We hope for a meeting open to dialogue."

Meanwhile, the president of San Marino's governing body, Giorgio Crescentini, reacted strongly to the strike announcement: "It's an absurd strike. If these gentlemen want to go and destroy Sammarinese football, let them. They won't go to Slovenia? Fine, we'll withdraw all our teams from international competition and UEFA will ban us from all competitions. We will not be blackmailed by anyone. 

"They are creating enormous damage to the image of the federation and the country at international level. These are not the ways and means to deal with any problems and I find the attitude of this [new organisation] which wants to enter the federation and start calling the shots. It is an unhappy issue, and this federation and its leaders deserve respect for what they have done over the last 25 years."

Crescentini apparently confessed to Italian press agency Italpress that he had been "caught by surprise" by events as he had been away for a few days, and added that there was daily contact with ASC representatives.He also said that the allegations against FSGC secretary Casadei were "biased and untrue", but also expressed the hope that all grievances would be addressed before the team is due to leave for Slovenia.

The Sammarinese Secretary for Sport, Teodoro Lonferini, called the ASC's stance "inappropriate" but echoed Crescentini's confidence that the situation would be resolved before the match on 27/3/14.

If the situation is not resolved before the aforementioned date and San Marino are unable to fulfil the fixture in Slovenia, UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body would most probably hurriedly convene to discuss the matter and could throw the book at the FSGC, especially if the association decides to withdraw all teams from UEFA competition. 

The association could risk forfeiting the point the national team gained at home to Estonia at the tail-end of last year, and under Article 27.04 of the UEFA Euro 2016 Regulations, would lose the rights to all payments due to it from UEFA. Indeed, UEFA could also fine the FSGC, request that payments made to it by them be returned and ban the Sammarinese organisation from all future competitions. 

That would spell disaster for football in San Marino and could set development back decades, if indeed football in UEFA's second smallest member state would ever recover. Should San Marino be banned from UEFA and FIFA competitions, certain sections of the media and football fandom, who already deride San Marino's national side as the laughing-stock of European football, would claim justification regarding their calls for the smaller countries to be excluded from UEFA and FIFA competition, saying that the FSGC is not competent enough to fielding an international team or organise its own affairs.

Crescentini is correct in saying that any strike would undermine football in the republic, and also the country's image abroad in all sorts of ways. It has to be said that the timing of the strike is more than unfortunate; the ASC would have been better suited to waiting until the end of qualifying competition for Euro 2016 before calling for strike action.

On the other hand, the FSGC could, and should, bend somewhat and allow player representation on its board, and also liaise with the ASC to set out a timetable for discussion and possible implementation of the grievances of the association's members. If the players do have ideas to improve and promote football in San Marino both locally and internationally, they should be listened to. Without players, there is no national governing body.

As ever, though, the truth probably lies somewhere in between the positions of both the FSGC and the ASC. What is obvious, however, is the fact that both sides are taking the situation seriously and that in itself is encouraging, but they must move quickly to repair the damage caused by this historic, though unwanted, scenario which is now facing football in San Marino. The reputation and future of football in San Marino could be at stake, and no-one with the interests of football in the country at heart, both within and without the state, would want to see either damaged.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The information contained above was gathered from the RTV San Marino, Corriere Romagna  and La Repubblica websites, amongst others. As per usual, any errors, either in translation or the content itself, are the author's own; corrections will gladly be made upon notification.

1 comment:

  1. Ah don't be so modest. A blog about all those intriguing micro nations' football exploits. Pretty darn interesting. I shall be reading more of this.