Only two teams on 5 islands: how the smallest football championship in the world is organized

Artem RossinskyNews
The Isles of Scilly are home to the smallest soccer league in the world

The smallest league, the smallest cup, unpredictable teams – all this is about the Silli Championship. The selection of football players while drinking beer, tournaments between rabbits on the field, and the relay race to build a field for the game from scratch – OBOZ.UA tells about the most romantic place for football with a special atmosphere.

What is this place?

The Isles of Scilly is a British territory with a special status; more than 50 pieces of land, of which only 5 have a permanent population. They include the world's smallest island, Bishop, with an area the size of a standard football field. The economy on the Isle is not very good – ocean fog often prevents airplanes from landing on the first try. But tourists who do make it to the island can go diving or watch the flowers grow.

Only 2,000 people live there! The population is constantly decreasing due to difficult living conditions, and there is not even a high school there. Young men move to the British islands, where they get a normal education and get jobs. This has had a great impact on the quality of local football, as we will discuss later.

Only two teams on 5 islands: how the smallest football championship in the world is organized

The islands are known for being at war for over 300 years... and no one knew that this war was happening. In short, in Britain in the middle of the 16th century, there was a confrontation between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists. The latter had a powerful fleet in the English Channel, which defeated the Dutch ships, and the latter came to ask for compensation. Without compensation, the Netherlands declared war on the island. In a few months, the royalists lost, and the inhabitants of Silla were forgotten to be informed about it. The island was at war for 335 years without a single shot being fired, and only in 1986 did an official peace treaty get signed. At that time, the population had been playing in their football league for over 70 years.

Why did the islands decide to create their tournament?

To find out which island is cooler. The biggest ones from the archipelago decided to play a popular game and formed teams. But the same problems with the economy and the remoteness of Silla from Foggy Albion hit the sport hard. People left, and young people with education stayed on the continent. Therefore, in the 1950s, the number of teams began to decline until only 2 clubs remained. "Rangers and Rovers changed their names and now play under the names Garrison Gunners and Woolpack Wanderers. Every Saturday, friends gather to drink beer and become rivals on the pitch the next day. And so on every week for six months.

Only two teams on 5 islands: how the smallest football championship in the world is organized

If the population of the islands is decreasing, where do they get players?

The selection of players is purely a formula from any Ukrainian backyard. Everyone who can play or is confident in their abilities gathers at the local pub. Before the first game, the players appoint two captains who take turns recruiting players. There is also mini-corruption: pay $50 and get a guaranteed spot in the first team. The club's roster cannot change throughout the season, and each time it is an unpredictable set of players. Although this rule is sometimes not followed, because someone may not be able to get to the place of the game due to high Atlantic waves.

Almost every year, 18 games are played, with each team hosting 9 matches. Although hosting is only a nominal fact: the field does not change, it is the same stadium on St. Marys Island. The so-called arena is so high above sea level that the game is often affected by fog, rain, and wind, which makes you run after the ball for a very long time after a powerful shot because there are not so many of them.

But not only the championship – they have three tournaments! Two thousand people live life to the fullest: they have the opportunity not to get an education, but to raise various Cups over their heads four times a year. And that's not all: sometimes guest teams come here. For example, in December they play the Cup against veterans, and every spring they compete against... ornithologists who study the island's fauna. Sometimes a united team from the town of Penzance, which is the closest to the mainland, also comes to the islands. "Dynamo Chow plays for a separate trophy, known in football as the smallest in the world: The Lioness Cup is only 6 millimeters high!

Only two teams on 5 islands: how the smallest football championship in the world is organized

Have they really been recognized officially?

Yes. It is officially the smallest championship in the world, recognized even by UEFA, with affiliation to the English structure. 22 years ago, representatives of the Guinness Book of Records came there and entered the Silli Championship in their register as the smallest football league on the planet. In 2008, representatives of Adidas also visited the island and filmed a 4-part documentary about the island league. And to make it even more interesting, the prime players Patrick Vieira and David Beckham were involved in the filming. And 4 years ago, youth competitions were launched on the island.

This is not because of the lack of young people, as the average age of the teams is rarely below 30. On the contrary, it is somewhat similar to our barbecue football in May, when 40-year-old men gather to run for fun. However, this in no way prevents the championship from maintaining its status as an official championship.

Only two teams on 5 islands: how the smallest football championship in the world is organized

Who is the champion?

In fact, who is counting those victories? There are statistics only for the period when there are two teams left, the leaders in victories are Garrison Gunners, with 20 championships; their rivals, Woolpack Wanderers, have 15 championship seasons. Before that, the victory count was kept very loosely, because some players either left the island or did not come to play because of family issues.

A ship owner, a farmer, a janitor, a constable, an airplane maintenance specialist, a postman, a fireman – they are all champions. Living on the Silla Islands is a challenge. For a bunch of men who want to find the referee before the game, update the markings themselves, put the goal back in place, and eventually bury the rabbit holes in the field, every game is a victory. And really, what could be better than enjoying your favorite game with your friends?

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