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EXCLUSIVE – Interview to Leon Glass, the remotest football manager of the world

The most remote football manager in the most remote island of the world. This is Leon Glass, the man who has the charge of organizing all the football played on Tristan da Cunha, a group of islands dispersed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean which count about 260 inhabitants. AsianOceanianfootball caught up with him to discuss the influence of the most popular sport in the most unknown place on Earth.

Give us a general introduction of football on Tristan da Cunha.

Football on Tristan is a very popular sport, but due to the small population of the island it is hard to form an 11-a-side team, so we usually play 5-a-side and we have two competing teams.

How football managed to arrive on the islands?

I don’t remember the exact dates but it was introduced by missionaries to the island and I think military personnel on visiting ships.

What about Tristan da Cunha national team, has it played any matches?

At the moment we don’t class ourselves as a national team, we don’t have the facilities or the funds to leave the island so all our matches are classified as friendlies.

According to some sources, Tristan da Cunha is a potential member of the CSANF, the South American Board of New Federations. Are you interested in taking part in this board and have you ever heard of it?

We were approached by CSANF a few years ago but we could not join because of the reasons in the above answers in question 1 and question 3.

What are your plans for the 2012/13 upcoming season in football?

We don’t make any official season plans as our matches vary but we try to train at least once a week to keep sharp.

How many matches do Tristan da Cunha’s selections manage to play every year against ship’s teams or other teams?

Again these matches vary from about 3 to 6 matches a year, although we would like to play much much more.

How many matches did you play in 2012 and which have been the results?

In 2012 we only played 1 match and that was our annual 5-a-side cup where our team is split down the middle with Tristan Government employees on one side and our Fish Processing Factory employees on the other. The Government team won the closely contested match 2-1.

Which is your exact position in Tristan da Cunha football?

My role at the moment is player manager, I organize the training sessions, order the team kits and take part in some of the matches.

What’s your next target?

We were recently invited to a 5-a-side tournament in Mallorca, but because of shipping schedules and lack of time to secure travel funding we could not attend, we would like very much to compete and do well in a tournament like this.

Is there a local championship played on the island?

Yes, the local championship is called the Table Bay Marine Cup and it’s the one I’ve mentioned before.

Do you think it will be possible to see one day Tristan da Cunha playing against other ‘neighboring’ islands, like Saint Helena? It’s rumoured that TDC lost 9-0 a game versus Saint Helena, but there’s no source confirming that, is it true?

We would like to play against the neighboring islands if it one day becomes possible, we have never played any of them before, so the rumour that we lost 9-0 to St Helena is just a rumour.

Which is Tristan da Cunha’s biggest success in football so far?

It is hard to say which is our biggest success so far as we have played so few matches, but the game we are most proud of is a few years ago when a South African construction team was visiting Tristan for several months, after playing two close matches that ended at 4-4 they challenged us to one final game before they left and dared us to put our recently won Trophy on the line. The result was Tristan Da Cunha – Apple Construction 14-2.

Tristan da Cunha’s teams played against Norwegian and American ships around 1940s. Do you have any info about those matches?

Yes through some of the history books Tristan teams did play these ships but I don’t have any info about them besides that they were played.

Do you have any chance of watching some football on tv?

We Follow the English Premier League on TV also the Champions League and all of the international competitions.

Do you have a favourite football team?

The majority of my team like me supports Man Utd but a few in the team also like Arsenal and Liverpool.

 by Christian Rizzitelli

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The remotest national football team of the world: Tristan da Cunha

In 1506 the Portuguese sailor Tristão da Cunha sought a little volcanic archipelago made up of only four islands, dispersed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, between South America and Africa.

Because of the scarce geography’s knowledge of that time, Da Cunha was probably unaware to have just discovered the remotest islands of the whole Earth.

Infact these little isles, which subsequently were named “Tristan Da Cunha” in the honor of the Lusitanian mariner by Englishmen, are 2816 km away from South Africa, 3360 km from Argentina and 2430 km from Saint Helena, their closest islands. And between them, there’s only the immense, colossal Ocean.

But Tristão da Cunha could have never imagined that, in this semi-desert island, one day it would have been established the remotest national football team of the planet.

It seems incredible, but football has managed to arrive even there.

The Island

The name Tristan da Cunha represents both the archipelago’s name and its biggest island.

All the inhabitants are concentrated there, mostly in the capital, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas.

Tristan Da Cunha is under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, who provides school teachers, doctors and material goods.

It’s rummy to notice that in the island there are only eight surnames, of Scottish, English, American, Dutch and Italian heritage.

Most practiced activies are lobsters’ fishing and agriculture, despite the greatest introits come from the exportations of local stamps, required in the whole world.

Football, inhabitants’ true passion

The first sports played on the island were cricket and golf, whose court is considered the worst in the world. But it’s football that broke locals’ hearts.

Initial stories about football are found in a book written in 1926 by Rose Rogers, an Anglican missionary, who lived in Tristan da Cunha for three years with his husband.

Infact Rose says: “Tristan lads became immensely keen on football, and..would have liked a season to last all year round.”

“The games were very strenuous, and there was a good deal of cheerful noise about them.”

Rev. Henry Rogers was probably the one who introduced the game on the island. The first games didn’t have a precise number of players on the pitches, which were usually destined to cattles.

But around 1940 there was a turn that changed completely the world game in Tristan da Cunha. Infact for the first time, they should have faced a foreign team, made up of South Africans and American fishers. This was the first time where the island selected a squad similar to a national team.

Afterwards the team played against opponents from apparently unattainable countries, even from Norway. Unfortunately there is no information about these matches’ results.

But Tristan’s isolation made it difficult for them to find regular teams to take on apart of them. This only until 2005, when a resident, Leon Glass, decided to set up a proper football team, which should have been used to play against vessels’ mariners with a bit of continuity.

Leon Glass managed to find a sponsor for the team’s shirts, whose official colours are blue and white, the fishing’ company Ovenstone Agencies, and created the local club, which serves as a true national team of the island, the TDCFC, Tristan da Cunha Football Club. Their home pitch is the ‘American Fence’, another cattle field.

“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,” revealad Leon Glass.

“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.”

Until now the national team’s results have been more than acceptable: in 2008 they hammered 10-5 the International Salvage XI, a selection composed of two ships’ crews, and less than a year ago, they demolished 9-0 the RFA Black Rovers.

But Glass calls for more opponents for the next years: “TDCFC haven’t played many games lately as we have no-one to play against,” he added.

“Maybe, in the next few months, a few Navy ships will pass and give us a game.”

It would be amazing if Tristan da Cunha would join an official confederation, in order to seal their success in football, but before it’d be more useful is someone took a piece of chalk to draw midifield and penalty box’s lines, as they’re non-existent at the moment.

However the arrival of football in Tristan da Cunha is clearly another victory of the world game, who has already arrived where men can’t. What’s next impossible challenge for the round ball? Only time will reveal us, for now we can only say well done to Tristan da Cunha, for making the impossible, real.

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Tristan da Cunha, il calcio ai confini del mondo

Nel 1506 il navigatore portoghese Tristão da Cunha avvistò un piccolo arcipelago di sole quattro isole, sperduto nel mezzo dell’Oceano Atlantico, quasi a metà tra il Sud America il Sudafrica. Difficilmente, data la scarsa conoscenza geografica dell’epoca, avrebbe potuto immaginare di aver appena scoperto le isole più remote dell’intero pianeta. L’arcipelago, ribattezzato successivamente con il nome di questo marinaio dagli inglesi, dista 2816 km dal Sudafrica, e addirittura 3360 dall’Argentina. In mezzo, il nulla, solo l’oceano, immenso e sterminato. Ma il nostro, caro Tristan da Cunha non avrebbe potuto nemmeno ipotizzare che, in quest’isola semideserta, sarebbe nata la nazionale di calcio più remota di tutte. Una nazionale che può solo scegliere tra una popolazione di soli 264 abitanti, addirittura meno delle piccole isole oceaniche. Una nazionale da guinness dei primati. Sembra incredibile, ma il calcio è arrivato fino lì, fino alle dimenticate isole di Tristan da Cunha.


Sotto il nome di Tristan da Cunha si intende sia il gruppo di isole che compone l’arcipelago, sia l’isola principale. Tutti gli abitanti sono concentrati su quest’isola, la maggior parte di essi nella capitale, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. Il territorio è sotto la giurisdizione del Regno Unito, che fornisce medici, insegnanti e beni materiali. Curiosità: nell’isola sono presenti solamente 8 cognomi differenti, due dei quali di origine ligure, Lavarello e Repetto. Le attività più praticate sono la pesca di aragoste e l’agricoltura, anche se i maggiori introiti arrivano dall’esportazione di francobolli locali, ricercati dai collezionisti di tutto il mondo.

Il calcio: la vera passione degli abitanti

I primi sport importati sull’isola furono il cricket e il golf, il cui campo viene reputato uno dei peggiori del mondo. Ma è il calcio che ha fatto breccia nei cuori dei locali.
I primi racconti riguardo al calcio risalgono ad un libro scritto nel 1926 da Rose Rogers, una missionaria anglicana, che ha vissuto sull’isola insieme al marito per circa tre anni. Ed è stato probabilmente lo stesso reverendo Rogers ad introdurre lo sport sull’isola. Le prime partite, giocate tra locali, non avevano un numero di calciatori per squadra ben definito, e si giocavano su campi destinati all’allevamento di bovini.
Ma intorno agli anni ’40, ci fu una svolta. Per la prima volta, gli abitanti di Tristan da Cunha dovevano affrontare una selezione di avversari stranieri. Si trattavano di pescatori sudafricani e statunitensi, che si opposero ad una selezione formata dagli abitanti dall’isola. Fu questa la prima occasione nella quale Tristan da Cunha selezionò una squadra accostabile ad una nazionale locale. Successivamente vennero affrontati anche avversari provenienti da paesi geograficamente irrangiungibili, come la Norvegia. Dei risultati di queste partite non si ha sfortunatamente traccia.

Ma la mancanza di territori nelle circostanza rese difficile a Tristan da Cunha l’organizzazione di partite con avversari stranieri con una certa regolarità. Tutto questo fino al 2005, quando un abitante locale, Leon Glass, decise di formare una vera e propria squadra di calcio, che avrebbe dovuto opporsi ai visitatori di turno dell’isola, assicurando agli amanti di questo sport dell’isola di giocare con discreta continuità.
Leon Glass trovò uno sponsor per le magliette (colori ufficiali bianco e blu), la compagnia di pesca Ovenstone Agencies, e diede vita alla squadra locale, nonchè nazionale a tutti gli effetti del piccolo arcipelago, la Tristan da Cunha Football Club.

I risultati della nazionale di Tristan da Cunha finora sono stati più che soddisfacenti: si sono registrate vittorie con larghi margini, come il 10-5 contro l’International Salvage XI nel 2008 (selezione formata da equipaggi di due navi diverse), o il 9-0 contro gli RFA Black Rovers, partita giocata neanche un anno fa.
Sarebbe fantascientifico se un giorno potessimo vedere quest’incredibile isola affiliata a qualche federazione continentale, per affermare definitivamente il successo di questa piccolissima nazionale. Ma prima è bene che qualcuno, munito di gesso, tracci le linee d’area di rigore e di centrocampo sul campo locale (denominato American Fence pitch), almeno per avere un terreno inquadrabile in cui disputare le partite.

Foto della nazionale di Tristan da Cunha La nazionale di calcio di Tristan da Cunha ed il campo locale

Per una volta ho deciso di fare uno strappo alla regola e di non parlare di calcio oceanico e asiatico, anche se, leggendo questa favola, vengono immediate le analogie con le Isole Pitcairn, arcipelago tra Nuova Zelanda e Tahiti, sperduto come Tristan da Cunha, ma con addirittura meno abitanti, soltanto 48. Il calcio è già arrivato dove l’uomo non è potuto arrivare, ma le sfide per lo sport più bello del mondo non finiscono qui.

A cura di Christian Rizzitelli

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