Bhutan, San Marino, Turks and Caicos - Life at the bottom of the FIFA rankings

San Marino Flag

We take a look at the three nations who are tied 207th in the FIFA rankings and what life is like for them

 At the dizzying heights of the FIFA rankings it is a very glamorous affair, containing nations who regularly grace the World Cup and who will be targeting success in Brazil next year.

England may have just dropped out of the top ten, prompting much soul searching concerning our youth development, getting more Englishmen in the Premier League and creating coaches who can master the latest favourite tactic, but things could be much worse.

In the murky depths of the rankings, once you’ve passed Mozambique, Kyrgyzstan and Timor-Leste, you arrive at the very bottom and find three countries tied for the title of lowest ranked team. In 207th are Bhutan, San Marino and the Turks and Caicos Islands, whom we will give a closer look.

Bhutan

Sandwiched between China and India, Bhutan belongs to the Asian Football Federation and the national team represents its 740,000 inhabitants. They are considered to be one of the happiest people on Earth, to such an extent that their government measures development through happiness levels in the country rather than GDP.

When you look at the results of the national team, it is clear that they aren’t the reason for the sunny disposition of the Bhutanese. Since 2000, when the nation joined FIFA, the team have managed just three victories (4-0 against Montserrat, 6-0 against Guam and 3-1 against Afghanistan) and were on the receiving end of a 20-0 defeat to Kuwait in only their second game.

Problems with infrastructure have hindered the country’s attempts to enter qualification for the World Cup but the FIFA Goal programme has done a lot of work to help develop football in Bhutan and hopefully get them to the qualifying stages for the competition in 2018.

They have benefitted from a technical centre since 2006 and an artificial pitch was installed at the national stadium in 2010, both complimented by the fact that last year the Bhutan Football Federation teamed up with Coca-Cola to create a new national league. That division provides all the players for the national team so hopefully all those factors will combine to bring home some success for the Bhutanese.

San Marino

Regularly scorned and lambasted by their European competitiors for clogging up their calendars and wasting their precious time with qualifying matches, the San Marino national team has endured a difficult existence.

After becoming affiliated in 1988, it took them 16 years to achieve a victory (a 1-0 win against Liechtenstein) and they are currently in a 9-year barren spell for another three points. Players such as Damiano Vannucci, Simone Bacciocchi and Andy Selva (the highest goal scorer with 8) have experienced many defeats, having been with the team since the mid-1990s.

Not that their national coach, Mazza Giampaolo, has a lot to work with. San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world and has just over 32,000 Sammarinese eligible to play for the national team, only 10% of whom play football at all. Those that do have the choice to play for 15 clubs in the country’s national league or San Marino Calcio, who play in the Italian third division.

Unfortunately for San Marino, the future doesn’t look especially bright. The calls for them to take part in a separate pre-qualifying tournament against other smaller nations are getting louder, leading many to predict that UEFA will grant their wishes in the near future.

Turks and Caicos Islands

The biggest contribution from the islands to world football comes in the form of FIFA Executive Committee co-opted member Sonia Bien-Aime, who is General Secretary of the Turks and Caicos Islands Football Association. Their national team has had much less of an impact on the footballing community.

Having become affiliated in 1998, the Turks and Caicos Islands have only played 14 times and won just two of those (2-0 against the Cayman Islands and 2-1 against St Lucia), which is the major reason why they find themselves in 207th place in the rankings.

The reason for the sporadic appearances in qualification processes is because of the financial issues that blight the nation’s FA, which is why FIFA’s Goal money for facilities has been vital for the country’s football development. The few games they have participated in were contested because they had to be active in order to continue receiving funding from the world governing body.

Hoping to see the fruition of football in Turks and Caicos Islands is their English technical director Matthew Green, appointed in 2006 after originally coaching a Sunday league team in Hull and then becoming an extremely successful director of women’s football in the Bahamas. Green oversaw their first win in qualification and has his eyes set on the future for the tiny islands.

image: © iz4aks

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