TOMOS KNOX looks at the plight of the team from the tiny Channel Island as they search for more ‘international’ recognition.
It’s 2003, and the Island Games, an Olympic themed tournament for islands all over the world, is just about to begin. Hosted in Guernsey, it includes triathlon, sailing, basketball, and of course, football.
The opening ceremony, held on the seafront in St Peter’s Port, was a far cry from the multi-million pound Olympic Games ceremonies, but it still attracted thousands of people. Instead of parading around a monsterously large stadium, the 2,500 competitors and officials walked from North Beach to Albert Pier, drawing applause from the crowd. Among the 23 islands were Greenland, debutants Bermuda, and Sark. Although the latter had competed in previous editions of the Games, this was to be the first time that they would enter a football team.
Football was first played on Sark in the 1950s, with islanders typically playing friendlies against visiting ships’ crew members and seasonal staff coming to work in the summer. But it wasn’t until 2001 that an official football team was created, Sark FC.
Having joined the Guernsey FA, Sark Football Club played in the GFA Cup for three years and regularly played against social club teams from Guernsey. However, Sark’s footballing community were on the hunt for a more competitive action. They entered a football team for the 2003 Island Games, just two years after founding the island’s football club.
With a population of just 600, it was inevitable that Sark’s national football team would be the outsiders. Competing against the likes of Greenland, which boasts 55,000 inhabitants, and Guernsey – population 65,000 – Sark were the underdogs from the outset.
Unfortunately, Sark’s first encounter in resulted in defeat, a significant defeat at that – they lost 19-0 to Gibraltar. This was a loss that struck deep wounds into the heart of the Sark squad, quite literally. In the three matches that ensued, Sark’s team was made up of the players who weren’t nursing an injury. This was a factor that created immense difficulty for the Sarkees, but it was the inexperience and lack of fitness of a squad including 50-year olds that ultimately ruined Sark’s tournament.
Following their humiliation at the hands of Gibraltar, Sark went on to lose 20-0 to the Isle of Wight, 16-0 to Greenland, and even received a drubbing by Frøya; a tiny Norwegian island of 4,000 people. Sark’s football team conceded 70 goals, and scored none.
Sark have not competed in the Island Games football tournament since their humiliating 2003 campaign, somewhat unsurprisingly, but continue to retain the slightly unfasionable title of ‘worst football team in the world’. Chris Drillot, Sark FC’s Chairman, believes that labelling Sark as the world’s worst team is unjust:
‘We might have the worst record in one tournament, but that was 11 years ago, our team has changed a lot and we have a good record in friendly matches’
Sark are no longer part of the Guernsey Football Association, and because of this have no official season. But, in spite of having no organised competition to take part in, they continue to play friendlies against social clubs from neighbouring islands.
But, like every ‘non-FIFA’ team, Sark are on the hunt for more meaningful games and are hoping to play a few ‘international’ matches soon:
‘ We are trying to play Herm and Alderney this season, as for Guernsey and Jersey, I don’t think this will happen’
And, with Sark on the hunt for competitive football, could this signify a dramatic return to international football for the ‘world’s worst football team’ in the 2015 Island Games, scheduled to be held in Jersey? Drillot doesn’t think so.
‘We do not have a big enough squad at the moment (to compete in the Island Games) but we never say we will not do it in some time’
Should Sark play Alderney and Herm, the latter comprising of just 60 inhabitants, they may be able to toss away the unwanted title of being recognised as the worst football team in the world, and become a competitive side. Alderney, who compete in the annual Muratti Vase alongside Channel Island heavyweights Guernsey and Jersey, however, may prove to be more difficult opposition.
The plight of Sark’s football club has taken a turn for the better recently, and with more and more locals becoming immersed in the ‘Beautiful Game’, who knows, maybe they will feature in the 2015 Island Games- after all, it isn’t wise to predict football!
TOMOS KNOX – @TomosKnox