Monday 25 February 2013

Northern Mariana Islands set for tough AFC Challenge Cup debut

Ayuyu's...before Saturday's
The Northern Mariana Islands arrived in Nepal on Sunday ahead of their AFC Challenge Cup debut and what will likely be the three toughest games in their history. The Asian Football Confederation associate member will take on the hosts on Saturday before playing a powerful Palestine team as well as Bangladesh in qualification group D.

Since joining the East Asian Football Federation in 2007 the Blue Ayuyu’s have seen more international action but remain one of the world’s weaker sides. The last 3 EAFF Cup qualification rounds have featured the islanders but they've been outclassed on each occasion, losing comfortably to sides like Mongolia and Macau. Their most recent outing was a friendly against neighbours Guam in November and the non-FIFA side were on the wrong end of an 8-0 thumping, suggesting they are somewhat behind even the smaller AFC members. The Northern Mariana Islands have not won an international since 1998 when they saw off Guam 3-0 and thrashed Palau 11-2, their only international successes.

Hitman...Miller (no. 9) will be the main 
man in attack
Despite a gulf in standards the Blue Ayuyu’s have been training intensively and have played every Saturday for the past 2 months against a local league select with goalkeeper Johann Noetzal adding "in the 1st month of our training, we practiced twice a week. In the last few months, we've practiced 6 times a week". The standout player is record-scorer Joe Miller who has 4 international goals to his name but the captain is realistic “it's a big challenge to score in this event". It’s hard to envisage the MP United man receiving many opportunities in Kathmandu and the focus will more likely be on the defence. Former FC Dallas draft Noetzel will start in goal in front of a young backline - improvements in the youth teams means coach Luam Khen Koo has called some players up to this squad including Jireh Yobech and Sean Perez. 32-year old Peter Loken could join Miller in attack. 
Experience...Loken might 
 play alongside Miller.

Team spirit is likely to play a big part in their results and the islanders will spend this week acclimatising to the altitude in Nepal but it's hard to see them gaining any points, or even a goal, in their debut Challenge Cup. A friendly against Japan Soccer College did produce a 2-0 win and was followed by a game against Philippine club Loyala, as they stopped over en-route to Nepal, in which the islanders gained a positive 0-0 draw. However it's likely they’ll be severely outclassed by nations who are much stronger than teams they are used to succumbing too. 

Updates and match reports of the Blue Ayuyu’s campaign will be available on Twitter @NonFIFAfootball and the blog.  

Squad (including club, caps & goals) - 
Johann Noetzel - Unattached - 1 (0)
Evan Hunsberger - Inter-Godfathers - 0
Chris Nelson - Inter-Godfathers - 4 (0)
Dan Westphal - Unattached - 4 (0)
William Dunn - Paire - 3 (0)
Lucas Knecht - Georgia Southwestern State University (USA) - 7 (0)
Raphael Zapanta - Paire - 1 (0)
Nick Swaim - MP United - 7 (1)
Kirk Schuler - MP United - 3 (1)
Yukiomi Adachi - ? (Japan) - 1 (0)
Steve McKagen - Paire - 6 (1)
Ruselle Zapanta - Tan Holdings - 1 (0)
Jireh Yobech - Inter Godfathers - 1 (0)
Michael Barry - Harrisburg Community College (USA) - 2 (0)
Jake Lee - MP United - 1 (0)
Kenneth Domingo
Justin Wing San Tan
Joe Miller - MP United - 8 (4)
Peter Loken - Inter-Godfathers - 7 (1)
Tim Tawanpiy - Paire - 0
Dae Won Joen - ? (USA) - 0
Jehn Joyner - MP United - 0
Sean Perez - Tan Holdings - 0

Thursday 21 February 2013

Jersey ready to fly English flag in UEFA Regions Cup

Jersey will become the third non-FIFA side to represent England in the UEFA Regions Cup when the crown dependency travels to San Marino in less than two weeks time. The Channel Islanders will meet the hosts amateur team as well as sides representing Northern Ireland (Eastern Region) and the Republic of Ireland (Leinster and Munster).

Champions...Jersey celebrate the win over the Isle of Man
The purely home-based squad is almost identical to a would-be Jersey Island Games squad and includes familiar names such as Craig Leitch, Joe Murphy and Craig Russell. Manager Craig Culkin recalled Stuart Andre to his squad but had to deal with the forced absence of James Queree, who did not have 2 years of continuous registration in Jersey football, and replaced him with Jack McKenna. Both Guernsey and the Isle of Man have previously represented England in the Regions Cup and Jersey had to see off the Manx side to qualify this time. The Isle of Man were narrowly knocked out in the intermediary round in 2007 and they hosted Jersey for a place in this year’s tournament last April as both non-FIFA sides found themselves in the final of the FA Inter-League Cup. A last-minute Luke Campbell equaliser followed by an extra-time penalty from Jack Cannon saw the Channel Islanders secure a dramatic win, and both players have kept their places in Culkin’s squad.

Confident...Jersey manager Craig Culkin
First up for the 2009 Island Games winners is a match with Ireland on the 6th before games against Northern Ireland (8th) and the hosts San Marino (10th). The Sammarinese are playing with an amateur squad but as most of their full national side are exactly that anyway the fixture will be an intriguing one, shades of a Jersey versus San Marino international. Manager Culkin is confident and said "team spirit is good and there is a belief among us that we have what it takes to win the group". The Islanders will have less than a week to recover upon their return home before they travel to Alderney for the Muratti semi-final on March 16th. 

The full fixture list for Jersey’s UEFA Regions Cup campaign is as follows, with all games taking place in the Stadio Olimpico -

6 March 2013
Leinster & Munster v Jersey

8 March 2013
Jersey v Eastern Region

10th March 2013
Jersey v San Marino

Friday 15 February 2013

Clinical Provence too strong for Monaco

Provence confirmed their status as one of the N.F.-Board’s more powerful sides as a strong first-half display saw them cruise to a 6-1 win over Monaco in Saint-Zacharie on Wednesday night. A Pape Fall hat-trick was added to by strikes from Anthony Mendy and Nicolas Ferrero with the Monegasque record-scorer Olivier Lechner scoring their consolation in a goal-filled first period. Romain Campagna netted the final goal for the hosts to complete the rout.
Dominant...Provence before the rout

When these sides last met in 2008 a tight 3-2 victory represented Provence’s first as an N.F.-Board member but the change in the gulf in class was clear to see in a dominant opening 45 for the hosts. Pape Fall struck first on his Provence debut before doubling the lead 6 minutes after, rifling a powerful effort beyond Maxime Julien. La Cayolle striker Anthony Mendy fired home the third goal on the half hour mark before, two minutes later, 26-year old Olivier Lechner pulled one back for Monaco to make it 3-1 and claim his first strike in national colours since a brace against the Vatican City in 2011.  Any hopes the principality had of a comeback were short-lived however as Fall wrapped up his first-half hat-trick in the 36th minute after being played in by Nicolas Ferrero. The difference between the semi-professionals and the amateurs was made even clearer when Ferrero, one of six players in the squad who was not making his debut, smartly dispatched the fifth goal one minute before the break.

Consolation...Lechner (with captains armband)
poses with the Monaco team pre-game

The hosts pulled their foot off the gas in the second-half but Romain Campagna made it 6-1 for the 2012 VIVA World Cup semi-finalists in the 55th minute. Both teams made substitutions as the game wore on with Monaco able to prevent conceding further whilst creating no clear-cut chances of their own. Campagna almost added a seventh goal in the dying moments but Julien was on hand to divert the shot past the post. Ultimately Philippe Burgio’s men were happy to settle for 6-1, their second biggest win at non-FIFA level. 

Neither side have any games lined up although Monaco may well play host to an unnamed N.F.-Board member over the summer, and also have preliminary plans to travel to the Vatican for game in July. 

Match information – 

Score: Provence 6 – 1 Monaco

GoalsProvence – Pape Fall 16', 22', 36' Anthony Mendy 30' Nicolas Ferrero 44' Romain Campagna 55’. Monaco – Olivier Lechner 32’.

Provence XI: Bosselet; Samat; Barnel, Lescoualch [Garnier 53'], Chrétien; Boukrouche [N'Diaye 50'], Ferréro Nicolas, Naffati [Jorbet 46'], MDahoma; Mendy, Fall [Campagna 47'].

Monaco XI: Julien; Vassalo, Santini, Dotta [Dioury 50'], Salvo; Casagrande [Scarlot 67'], Bovini, Petit [Sabine 60'], Landau, El Missouri; Lechner.

Friday 8 February 2013

Provence favourites for meeting with Monaco

2012 VIVA World Cup semi-finalists Provence will take on fellow N.F.-Board members Monaco in a pre-Valentine’s Day derby next Wednesday (13th) in the French commune of Saint-Zacharie. The teams have met before in 2008 in Cap d’Ail and Provence’s 3-2 win marked their 1st at international level.

Last 4...VIVA World Cup semi-finalists Provence
The hosts were the surprise package at the recent VIVA in Kurdistan and will be favourites to overpower the tiny principality. Since their loss to Zanzibar in June’s 3rd-place VIVA match Provence have played one game, a November friendly against 6th-tier club side UGA Ardziv. They won 2-1 with the core of the VIVA squad featuring, which is likely to be the case against Monaco. Omar Mdahoma is set to captain the side which has an impressive backline including Kévin Barnel and Benoit Lescoualch. They are most powerful going forward however and should be more than capable of breaking down Monaco. Christophe Copel was joint top-scorer in Kurdistan and will be comfortable at this level. Support coming from Nicolas Ferrero will help, and should Yanis and Samir Abbes feature then the attack is only strengthened. 

Rarity...Monaco before their win over club side Espoir
Since the aforementioned 3-2 loss to Provence in 2008 the Monégasque have played just 3 internationals after they were regulars on the non-FIFA scene in the mid-00’s. The team is much-changed since then with many of the old guard no longer involved. Vice-captain Olivier El Missouri is an important figure as demonstrated in his sides 7-4 win over club side Espoir Bastias on January 26th, as well as his role in the narrow 2-1 loss to Raetia in October. Monaco’s last international win was against Vatican City in May 2011 when record-scorer Olivier Lechner notched a brace. Julien Sirio should feature in a backline that misses the goalkeeping presence of Manuel Vallaurio, formerly of AS Monaco, who hasn’t played for the national team since 2008. 

The Fédération Monegasque de Football has fewer than 100 players to select it’s side from and should Provence field their full side then it’s likely they’ll prove too much. Kick-off is at 18:00 local time (17:00 U.K.) and updates will be available from us as soon as we get them.

Friday 1 February 2013

Interview #4 (February 2013) – leading non-FIFA journalist and Outcasts! author Steve Menary

The release of Outcasts! The Lands That FIFA Forgot in 2007 was ground-breaking for non-FIFA football. It was the first and so far only time a book has been written and published on the side of international football played beyond FIFA's auspices. This month we caught up with the author Steve Menary to discuss his release of an updated Outcasts!, his future plans as well as the current state of non-FIFA football.
Update...the new Outcasts! cover

Menary has been involved with non-FIFA football ever since and is the leading journalist in the field. Every month his articles are published in World Soccer and has also written for FourFourTwo, Guardian Unlimited, When Saturday Comes and others. Since the books release Menary has returned to different places featured in the book to describe the on-going status of international recognition for teams like Gibraltar and Greenland, as well as unearthing new stories in places such as Saint Pierre and Miquelon and Darfur.  

A new edition of Outcasts! has recently been published on Kindle. Available on Amazon, the new version includes an epilogue as well as extra photos. 

NFFU: It’s been over 4 years since the 1st release of Outcasts! and the release of the updated version on Kindle. For many of the teams little has changed in that time, but not Gibraltar. When you were writing the book did you think they’d ever make it into UEFA? 

SM: When I first met the Gibraltarians I thought they would eventually get crushed by invested interests at bigger associations but that changed. They are very determined and when I wrote the epilogue last year for the new edition of Outcasts it seemed much more realistic.

NFFU: As mentioned some other teams seem as isolated as ever. Do you believe Greenland will ever manage to join UEFA/FIFA? 

SM: If they become independent I'm sure they will, but they do seem as isolated as ever in every possible sense.

NFFU: Greenland will play at the Island Games in Bermuda this summer but will be one of few teams. Do you think the IGA regret the decision to hold the tournament in a location which is quite expensive to reach/stay in? 

SM: On the surface, it might seem like a step backwards with reduced numbers but it will expand the notion of the Island Games movement outside Europe. In terms of hosting Games, the IGA has always focused on Europe but the membership is not solely restricted to Europe . The Isle of Wight, Isle of Man and both the main Channel Islands - all in Europe - have each hosted it twice. So the IGA were trying to do the right thing and Bermuda's still a great place with good facilities, but travel costs have risen, which I'm sure the IGA did not anticipate when they decided to let Bermuda host this year's event.

NFFU: Guernsey have chosen to join the English club system and Guernsey F.C. are currently in the Combined Counties Premier League (level 9) chasing a 2nd straight promotion. Do you think that the football bodies on Guernsey have all but given up on international football? 

SM: Probably, given the success that the Guernsey FC team have enjoyed since entering the English pyramid and the regular four figure crowds for games on the island.

NFFU: Do you think that Jersey will follow suit one day? 

SM: The JFA was always following a different route and when they had the ear of Geoff Thompson at FIFA, getting to some kind of middle ground seemed quite realistic, but the problems that UEFA and FIFA are having with Gibraltar and Kosovo has reduced their chances. In order to emulate Guernsey and the Jersey rugby side though they need significant funding first to cover the cost of getting teams out there for league games. I somehow doubt that ticket money would cover that for a whole season.

NFFU: Your most recent article for World Soccer was on Outre-Mer side Saint Pierre and Miquelon. What was your opinion on the quality at last autumn’s Coupe de l’Outre-Mer? 
The Outcasts! author

SM: There were some players that looked particularly good like Chamsidine Attoumani of Mayotte. I was surprised there were not more scouts at the early games.

NFFU: It seems few or indeed none of the (Outre-Mer) teams have designs on joining FIFA. Is this the case? 

SM: That looks to be the case. The Caribbean ones get regular matches in the Caribbean Cup. French Guiana's experience in Paris this year was interesting. They used the tournament as a training tournament for the players back home and that paid off by qualifying for the subsequent Caribbean Cup finals. 

NFFU: Martinique were the surprise package at last year’s Caribbean Cup. Do you think they can continue to shock at this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup?

SM: Depends which players they can get to play. It's off-season in Europe, so they could get out a strong side that might surprise a few people.

NFFU: The N.F.-Board held a successful and competitive VIVA World Cup in the summer. Did you follow the tournament or ever think of going out to Kurdistan? 

SM: I was invited to a recce that the NF Board undertook to work out the scheduling, but couldn't make that or the finals, which was a shame as it looked to be the best organised VIVA World Cup to date.

NFFU: Do you think the N.F.-Board will ever forge a relationship with FIFA?

SM: Probably not. They've met senior FIFA people in the past and it's come to nothing.

NFFU: Kurdistan played with FIFA members in the Al-Nakba Cup last May, and the Northern Mariana Islands will contest their first AFC Challenge Cup qualification in March despite not being a FIFA member. In Europe, Kosovo are not even allowed to play friendlies. Why do you think this is? 

SM: One word: politics

NFFU: What do you make of FIFA’s recent decision to reject Kiribati’s bid for membership? 

SM: Ludicrous.

NFFU: The Vatican are set to play Raetia in June. Have you ever managed to get good, consistent contact with Vatican football authorities? 

Coverage...a Menary piece in FourFourTwo
SM: Yes, I went to a round of matches in the Vatican league in Rome in Autumn 2011 for World Soccer.  I met all the people involved, including the late Dr Sergio Valci. Ever since then, I've been sent regular results for the league.

NFFU: Do you feel Monaco will ever try for FIFA membership or is there not enough willpower there to try and negotiate with the Monaco government, AS Monaco or the French FA? 

SM: I doubt it. AS Monaco is Monaco's footballing representative and I can't imagine why the government or Royal Family would do anything to jeopardise that.

NFFU: Since the release of Outcasts! which FA’s have you kept in touch with? Are there any which you particularly wish to achieve more recognition? 

SM: I've kept in touch with a few. I always had some sympathy for the Greenlanders. They are stuck in limbo because of what's going on with Gibraltar and the team there has more of a social side, taking players from the end of the world to places they would otherwise not see, than probably any other 'international' team in the world.

NFFU: Do you have any plans to write a 2nd, full edition of Outcasts? 

SM: Probably not. When I was working on Outcasts in 2005-07, the idea of writing about this sort of football was mostly unheard of. Publishers thought the only way to write about it was to make fun of the teams concerned, which I didn't want to do, and it was really difficult finding a publisher that would pay an advance. Now all that's changed. There's clearly more interest in football outside the top leagues/national teams. That's evident in the increasing emergence in the past few years of websites on a greater variety of footballing topics, many of which very good and well researched like yours and Pat's Football Blog. I'm not sure there's the 'space' for a second edition of Outcasts now.

NFFU: Are you planning on heading to any non-FIFA games or tournaments in the next year? 

SM: Well, a trip back to Bermuda would be good...

NFFU: Could you name, if any, non-FIFA teams who you feel could realistically join their continental confederation or FIFA in the next few years? 

SM: Gibraltar because the law is on their side; Northern Mariana Islands, because there's a lot of good development work going on there, which is becoming increasingly evident from the results of their junior teams.