I have been neglecting anyone who reads the blog, as recently I have found it easier to write some lengthy diatribes directly to facebook and then post these with pictures.
I am not going to repeat all of that here, but instead provide a quick sketch of the start of my Caribbean odyssey, and then links to the facebook posts where individual reports on each match day cane be found.
Before I post that, I shall drop in a few words on country and association status, as this is particularly important, at least to my own obsessions at this point of the venture
Now, it is quite simple – the United Nations has 193 members, so there are 193 countries in the World. Simples?
Not really – FIFA manages to up the numbers to 211, but somehow manages to miss a few out, while there are 11 extra football associations around the world that have full or associate membership of continental federations, but are not FIFA members. Then of course there are the self-governing territories that have not managed to achieve recognition of statehood, as some of the members of the UN are opposed to their existence. The other way of putting that is that at least one UN member state claims the territory as their own, but for some reason cannot govern it. In simplistic terms that is normally down to the military forces of at least one other UN member state. It should not be a surprise that there are more than a few cases where those military forces are Russian. Some of these are members of CONIFA, (particularly, but not exclusively the Russian sponsored states). Such states include Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Kosovo is another territory that cannot get full membership of the UN, despite widespread recognition, but unlike those already mentioned, they have achieved membership of FIFA. All members of FIFA are also in membership of one of its six constituent Confederations, although as I have already mentioned, the reverse is not true.
There are 11 football associations that have joined their confederation, but are not FIFA members. Generally, these may aspire to joining FIFA, but the rules have been changed and for the moment it appears the doors are closed. Only two of these 11 are fully self-governing, although all have some degree of autonomy. As parts of democratic states, they could choose to become independent at some time in the future, but they are choosing not to be. Six of the 11 are in the Caribbean, which is why I have brought up the subject here.
The eleven are French Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten and Bonaire in CONCACAF, the Northern Mariana Islands in the Asian Football Confederation, Kiribati, Niue and Tuvalu in Oceania and Reunion in Africa. Of these eleven, only Kiribati and Tuvalu are fully recognised at the UN and therefore stand some chance of joining FIFA in the near future.
Oceania could add another four members without controversy, if the countries so wished. The Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau are all full members of the UN and therefore meet the first of the FIFA’s current requirements. There is one more full member of the UN, Monaco that has not attempted to join FIFA or any of the Confederations. This is because of uncertainty over the fate of AS Monaco in the French League should they go independent. Curiously, while AS Monaco plays within the principality and in the French League, all the games in Monaco’s domestic football competition are played on grounds in France.
Over the years, FIFA has had a much easier entry criteria, which has allowed for many extra members that are not sovereign states. The tightening of the regulations was mainly in response to Gibraltar’s application for membership, which has heavily opposed by Spain. So much so that the two teams cannot meet in competition to this day.
Indeed, the United Kingdom has more FIFA member states than any other country in the World. Apart from the obvious constituents of the UK (England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland), and the newly entered Gibraltar, British dependent territories in the Caribbean are also in FIFA. None of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Monserrat or the Turks and Caicos Islands are members of the UN, meaning that the UK actually has eleven FIFA members.
We are not alone, just the most prolific. Apart from its four associate members in the Caribbean, France has two full members of the Oceania Football Confederation and FIFA in French Polynesia (aka Tahiti) and New Caledonia. The latter has just voted not to become independent from France. The Netherlands has responsibility for the other CONCACAF members. Sint Maarten and Bonaire, plus also Aruba and Curacao which are full FIFA members. The USA includes two Caribbean FIFA members, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, as well as American Samoa (Oceania), and Guam (Asia) and the aforementioned Asian associate, the Northern Mariana Islands. The Faroe Islands are an autonomous region of Denmark, while the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau are FIFA members, but also parts of China. China would like to claim Chinese Taipei (aka Taiwan) as well, and will complain vigorously if you miss the island off a map of China. Finally, Palestine has a special status at the UN and is a full member of the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA.
As I keep a list of countries I have seen football in, I needed to be able to have my own definition – and I have gone for wide scope. My list of countries visited for football will include any with full or associate membership of any of the Confederations, or full membership of the UN. Hence of this trip, all my first stops, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Anguilla and Sint Maarten will count. I also count Monaco as I have seen them in the French league, but for my matches in Monaco’s Prince Rainier III competition, the venue is shown as in France.
I am not including crown dependencies such as Guernsey on my list of countries, nor disputed self-governing territories such as Transdniestria and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, even though there is an argument for the latter as they do have an independent FA and league. Transdniestria teams play in the Moldovan league
And now a few links
Recap – my visit to a match in Monaco’s Prince Rainier III
Day 1 – flying to Guadeloupe, the Just in Time delivery experience
Day 2 – Life’s a Beach, (unless someone hits your car), but only until kick off time
Day 3 – Bird Watching, and more Second Division Guadeloupe
Day 4 – Money questions in Martinique