Two old rivalries will be played out this weekend as a busy summer of non-FIFA football gets underway on Friday. Firstly Island Games competitors Saaremaa travel to neighbours Hiiumaa as the Estonian islands continue the revival of a formerly annual match. The next day in traditionally warmer climes Monaco meet the mysterious national side of the Vatican City, who’ll play an international for only the 3rd time.
Hiiumaa vs. Saaremaa
|Derby...the sides line up before the 2011 meeting.|
With a population of less than 10,000 Hiiumaa will always be the underdogs against Saaremaa, who have around 40,000 people living on the island. The latter are members of the Island Games Association and thus compete against the likes of Gibraltar, Jersey and Greenland every 2 years which offers them valuable experience. In the most recent event in 2011 they matched their best-ever finish of 6th to cap off a considerable turnaround in form after a dreadful 8 game losing run prior to those games.
Simply being registered to a club on the island is all that’s required for eligibility but most players are home-grown and play for the islands main side FC Kuressaare, who play in the Estonian top-flight. This results in a generally competitive Saaremaa island side put interestingly their finest player over the past few years, Martti Puuk, hails from Hiiumaa. With 5 goals he is Saaremaa’s all-time leading scorer but as he is from Hiiumaa, and only registered to a club on the larger island, he plays these fixtures for the place of his birth.
|Key man...Martti Puuk|
Puuk netted the only goal in a 3-1 away loss last summer but the game the year before was far tighter, with the visiting Saaremaa lucky to leave with a 1-0 win. Märt Kluge hit the winner that day and the defender also bagged in the 2012 game. Hiiumaa’s last win was over 15 years ago in 1997 when they claimed a fine 2-0 away scalp.
Remarkably the sides met on a boat in a 6 a-side game earlier this year and it will be the visitors who will once again be favourites, and with no Island Games trip to Bermuda this summer they will be even more focused on continuing their recent run of victories over their rivals.
NFFU predicts: Hiiumaa 1-2 Saaremaa
Monaco vs. Vatican City
|Victors...Monaco celebrate their 2011 win in Rome.|
By their recent standards Monaco have had a fairly busy 2012-13 with games against N.F.-Board sides Raetia (1-2) and Provence (1-6). The announcement of a game in their traditional ‘home’ ground of Cap d’Ail against the Vatican game only recently but the Monegasque will be confident of only a second win since 2006.
The sides have met each other twice before, most recently in 2011 when Monaco record-scorer Olivier Lechner netted a brace to help his side to a 2-1 win in Rome. Lechner has bagged 7 in his last 9 games for Monaco but will miss the match on Saturday whilst he recovers from knee surgery a month ago.
The same squad that lost to Provence in February is likely to feature with captain Olivier El Missouri possibly playing a more forward role in Lechner’s absence. El Missouri played in the 2011 fixture and told us “to score 3 goals against them would be nice but if not we will take the same score..we have a different squad to 2011but a similar level”.
|Rare...a photo of the Vatican team, taken in 2011.|
Little is known about the Vatican national side other than the scores of their 2 internationals against Monaco, and even the 0-0 in 2002 is disputed. They travel for an away game for the first time which could be the sign of a new outlook among the footballing powers within the microstate. The domestic championship, played on Monday nights at Pontificio Oratorio di San Pietro leisure centre, recently concluded.
The champions Dirseco provide the Vatican’s most dangerous player, and the only person to score for the tiny nation, Alessando Quarto. A shop-worker in the Holy See when not playing football the left-footed striker will be the most likely to trouble Monaco goalkeeper Maxime Julien. The fixture will hopefully see the start of a more active Vatican side.
NFFU predicts: Monaco 2-0 Vatican City