St He­lena

Hop­ing for an in­ter­na­tional de­but

World Soccer - - CONTENTS -

Few foot­ballers are as iso­lated as those of St He­lena, but with a link to the out­side world fi­nally avail­able the is­land is now try­ing to raise £90,000 to make its in­ter­na­tional de­but. Stranded in the South At­lantic, the Bri­tish over­seas ter­ri­tory is 7,250km from Lon­don and 2,700km from Cape Town, and un­til 2016 the only link to the main­land was a Royal Mail ship that made the trip every three weeks in a voy­age that took three weeks.

How­ever, a new £285mil­lion air­port has opened on the is­land and the lo­cals are hop­ing to raise the money to send a team to the In­ter Games foot­ball tour­na­ment at Yns Mon in north Wales next sum­mer.

The ac­tual Is­land Games are in Gi­bral­tar, but for the first time since 1989 foot­ball will not fea­ture due to a lack of pitches, so Yns Mon – known in English as An­gle­sey – will host a one-off foot­ball tour­na­ment from June 15-22.

In the past, the Faroe Is­lands and Gi­bral­tar have both used the tour­na­ment as a spring­board to be­com­ing a FIFA mem­ber and the St He­lena Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (SHFA) wants to fol­low suit.

Founded in 1900, the SHFA runs a flour­ish­ing lo­cal league con­sist­ing of nine teams, with the cur­rent cham­pi­ons be­ing Rovers. But apart from games against pass­ing ships, the is­land has never fielded a rep­re­sen­ta­tive team.

Af­ter the is­land’s govern­ment drew up a new so­cial pol­icy plan in 2013, the SHFA ap­proached FIFA but was knocked back and told to af­fil­i­ate to its govern­ing body’s as­so­ci­a­tion.

Nick Stevens, who would be St He­lena’s coach in Wales, says: “FIFA said we would need per­mis­sion from our govern­ing coun­try’s FA. We ap­proached the FA and they stated we need to be an EU mem­ber.”

The FA en­cour­aged St He­lena to ex­plore other op­por­tu­ni­ties and a sec­ond ap­pli­ca­tion was sub­mit­ted this year. But although FIFA funds six Dutch and French Caribbean is­lands that are not in the world body so they can take part in the CON­CA­CAF Na­tions League, no sim­i­lar help was of­fered to St He­lena.

The SHFA wants to take 25 play­ers and of­fi­cials to Yns Mon, fly­ing from the new air­port via Wind­hoek in Namibia to Jo­han­nes­burg and then on to Wales. The cost of flights, ho­tel and kit is £3,940 per per­son.

“Although this is a long shot the SHFA is de­ter­mined to make this hap­pen,” says Stevens. “We have al­ready started to con­tact po­ten­tial spon­sors.”

A kit spon­sor has pledged £7,000 and the SHFA had raised £18,900 by the end of Oc­to­ber.

If the is­lan­ders do get to Wales they have no idea how they will fare but the past ex­pe­ri­ence of the only rep­re­sen­ta­tive side from St He­lena at in­ter­na­tional level was bet­ter than ex­pected.

A team of crick­eters took the mail boat to a T20 com­pe­ti­tion in South Africa in 2012 and won three of their seven games. This year the crick­eters took part again, fly­ing to Botswana, where they once again posted some wins.

Some Saints have al­ready gone to the Is­land Games, with Jeremy Henry and Adam Glanville, who em­i­grated to the Falk­land Is­lands, both rep­re­sent­ing their new home.

De­spite a smaller play­ing base than St He­lena, the Falk­lands have man­aged a few wins over the years and Stevens is hope­ful of em­u­lat­ing his is­land’s crick­eters with at least one win in Wales – if they make it that far.

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