Matters of size

Ian Plenderleith trawls the web for minnows and finds that the smallest European football associations and their clubs are, like their teams out on the pitch, willing but not always particularly able

Like it or not, small and mostly useless Euro­pean footballing nations are now an in­tegral part of the game’s landscape. This month’s column tackles the highly charged question that many have asked but few have been able to answer – can countries such as Lux­embourg and Liechtenstein compete on the web any better than they do on the field?

All you need to know about the official website of the San Marino FA is that you can’t order more than five tickets at any one time for national-team fixtures. Either demand is so high that numbers are restricted, or the pessimists in charge assume that a group of more than five people on a night out in the town (sorry, erm, sovereign state) would find better options than watching their nat­ional side go down by seven or eight goals. There are no prices listed, either, so perhaps they’re free, as are all games involving the Luxembourg national team if you’re under 16 and want to stand on the terraces, according to the Luxembourg FA site.

This carefree attitude can be also be ob­served on the Luxembourg domestic scene, where FC Wiltz 71 haven’t bothered to update their official site for more than three years. It’s worth visiting, though, to see a picture of what must be one of the few top-tier clubs in Europe to boast an imposing church right next to one of the corner flags. The religious theme continues at the intro page to Luxembourg’s cup-win­ning side F91 Dudelange in the revolving dis­play of photos that includes one player on his knees in prayer, possibly the side’s best chance of making progress in Europe (note to Ran­gers fans – this might be worth a try). Inside, the photographer who captured the excitement of the team’s recent 1-0 victory in the top-of-the-table clash at Etzella Ettelbrück was clearly too involved in the action to take any snaps at the game’s crucial moments – either that or all games in the Luxembourg league take place at walking pace.

Annoyingly, few Faroe Islands clubs have bothered to cater for the potentially massive English readership, so I can’t offer much analy­sis of the homepages of teams such as Argja Boltfelag . I clicked on a promising link that said “Felagio”, but it only led me to some pictures of grim-looking functionaries such as treasurer Sigmar Jacobsen (come on Sigi, give us a smile) and several others who prefer to remain hidden behind the guise of the team mascot, a gormless cartoon cat in West Ham colours.

Kjartan Mohr, the treasurer at FC B36 Torshavn , looks much more approachable, smiling gently and with his collar open, inviting you to call him or email him if you like. My guess is that the climate’s a little milder in Torshavn compared with Argja. There was a single link in English entitled “Watch Your Back!”, but clicking it set off a long video download. I made my excuses and pressed cancel. But wait, city rivals HB 1904 have an English page! Cruelly raised hopes are quickly shattered when you read that they’ve no longer the time to update it and “at the moment we simply have to face reality of life and we are not making any promise about nothing at the time being”. Well, thanks a bunch. And they don’t even bother with a picture of the treasurer. To be fair, though, the history of the game on the islands and some of the background information on the struggle for teams to find training times (most of the municipally owned plastic pitches double up as kids’ playgrounds) is informative enough, while for ground fetishists the shoreside photography of the grass-surfaced national stadium is postcard quality.

Playing football in a fifth-tier nation has done wonders for the humility of some of Liechtenstein’s top players. At the FC Vaduz official site (the country’s best team, who play in the Swiss second division) the players are asked to give their motto for life: “Live for the moment,” says Michael Stocklasa. “Take life as it comes,” says fellow defender Martin Telser. “Every day a good deed,” chimes in the cubscoutish Marius Zarn. “Never lose your sense of fun,” opines Fabio D’Elia. What would Roy Keane make of this bunch? Whatever happened to “Win at all costs!” or “Get your agent to squeeze them for an extra million”? No wonder these countries are football­ing backwaters.

From WSC 213 November 2004. What was happening this month