On Sunday 26th June 2011 a remarkable event will take place, one that is sure to get all football groundhoppers literally reaching for their plastic programme wallets with excitement like it has never been seen before. On this historic day the football tournament in the 14th Island Games on the Isle of Wight will start. Not just start but shoot into space with a total of 13 games being played in 7 venues on one day. God said rest on the seventh day and what better way to rest than to race around a small island watching the likes of the Falkland Islands, Greenland and Rhodes play our beautiful game.
The International Island Games were founded in the Isle of Man in 1985 and today include 25 member islands in, or associated with, the nine sovereign nations of Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK, plus the Caribbean. The Islands come together every two years to compete in friendly competition in a range of up to 14 sports chosen by the host Island from an approved list of 18. One such sport this year is football, meaning that the best international tournament to be played this year will be taking place a mile or so off the south coast of England in the Isle of Wight.
The last games were held in 2009 in Åland, close to the Finnish coast. Twenty five islands took part in fourteen events, with the football taking pride and place with sixteen nation playing in the main stadium in Mariehamn. Overall the Faroe Islands won the most Golds (34) but due to their affiliation with FIFA they were not allowed to play in the football tournament which was won by Jersey who beat the hosts 2-1 in the final
And who will be there this time around(apart from me, of course)? Well how about the heavyweights of international football Frøya, the silky skills of the men from Hitra or the passionate support from Prince Edward Islands. In fact out of the 25 competing nations I have never heard of nearly half of them. For your information Frøya and Hitra are neighbouring islands situated off the coast of Central Norway, Hitra is closest to the mainland , whilst Frøya is the outermost one facing the North Atlantic. Hitra is now connected to the mainland by the world’s deepest underwater tunnel, 264m under sea level. Prince Edward Island on the other hand has the distinction of being the smallest political unit in one of the world’s largest countries, Canada. “The Island,” as it is known affectionately by its inhabitants, is situated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence off the Atlantic coast of North America. At 46° North latitude, it is about half-way between the Equator and the North Pole. The Falkland Islands had come from literally the other end of the earth, whilst my Danish cousins were represented with teams from Greenland and the Faroes respectively. Who wouldn’t want to see The Falklands take on Alderney?
The tournament is being played in nine venues across the Isle of Wight, just a ten minute Hovercraft ride away from Southsea, the biggest of which is home to Newport FC of the Sydenhams Wessex Premier League who would be hosting the final as well as the “home nations” games. The organisers are issuing “season tickets”, that can be used for any match during the competition for just £20. With 51 matches (mens and womans) in total that equates to a staggering 40pence per each game! FIFA/UEFA/FA/Football League are you listening?
After an aborted attempt at the draw in early May where it was discovered some teams would have less than 15 hours rest between fixtures, we finally got our hands on the list of games this week. Not as promising as we first hoped but still some mileage in getting to four games in one day:-
Sunday 26 June 2011
2pm – Gotland v Isle of Man at Cowes FC (1st half)
3pm – Rhodes v Greenland at Brading FC
7pm – Aland v Saaremaa at East Cowes FC (1st half)
7.30pm – Isle of Wight v Ynys Môn at Newport FC
Some tasty numbers there I am sure, but who exactly were they?
Gotland – Gotland is situated in the middle of the Baltic Sea, 50-60 miles from the Swedish mainland, and 80 miles from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and is home to 58,000 people. Last time out in 2009 they finished in 11th place. Their biggest club is undoubtably FC Gute who play in the 4th tier of Swedish football.
Isle of Man – Semi-finalists back in 2009, the Manx will be one of the favourites this time around. Included in their squad are Ade Akinbiyi from Notts County and George Weah who plays for Peel AFC on the island, a significant step down from his AC Milan days I am sure!
Rhodes – The Island of Rhodes is situated in the eastern Mediterranean basin and marks the easternmost point of the Greek archipelago. Turkey is 13 miles across the straights and Cyprus lies 300 miles to the south-east. To the west are the adjacent islands of the northern group of the Dodecanese and the Cyclades. In 2009 they finished 5th. Keep an eye out for Spirydon Tsakmakidis.
Greenland – Greenland is the largest island in the world, located in the northern Atlantic where the Arctic and Atlantic oceans meet. Greenland is a country without motorways or a railway system, and transport between towns is by domestic air flights or helicopter. They finished in 12th in 2009. In 2010 they started their process of applying for FIFA status which would allow them to compete for qualification to the World Cup, although it is not clear what confederation they would belong to.
Åland – Hosts in 2009 and runners up to Jersey. Åland is an autonomous, demilitarised, Swedish-speaking region of Finland. Åland consists of more than 6,700 islands and skerries, of which 6,400 are larger than 3,000 m2. It is also home to Finnish Premier League side IFK Mariehamn who provide more than 40% of the players in the squad.
Saaremaa – Saaremaa, literally ‘Island’s Land’, the second largest island in the Baltic Sea. Saaremaa is also the biggest island of the Republic of Estonia, situated close to the western or mainland coast of Estonia, the nearest point being the harbour of Virtsu, 8km away. The main club side is FC Kuressaare who play in the top flight of Estonian football.
Isle of Wight – The “host nation” finished 10th in 2009 and will look at using home advantage this time for a place in at least the semi-finals. The biggest club side is Newport (Isle of Wight) FC who play in the Wessex League. Goalkeeper Simon Moore is currently on the books of Brentford.
Ynys Môn – The team from the Isle of Angelsey who were one of the most successful sides at the Island games until 2001. They finished in 6th place in 2009.
There is nothing special about trying to fit in as many games as possible in a day, but how about if you also went between the grounds on a tandem? Yep, that is the plan. Everywhere in Isle of Wight appears to be “about 10 minutes in the car” so that wasn’t really much of a challenge. But spending the day looking at Danny Last’s arse (or vice versa) whilst not high on my list of Sunday activities, was a different prospect altogether. After all it is what the dice told us should be our method of transport, and we always listen to the dice.
So stay tuned as our plans for the day unfold. We reckon that the 26th June is about equidistant from the end of this season to the start of the real pre-season action of 2011/12. So something for us all to look forward to.
Full fixtures for the tournament can be found here.