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 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.