April 28th 2004

San Marino 1 0 Liechtenstein


The San Marino national football team is used to waiting. They were founded in 1931, but werent recognised by governing body FIFA until 1988. There was a further two year delay, before their first competitive fixture, a 4-0 loss to Switzerland in November 1990. Now, seventy-three years after their formation, theyve recorded a first victory.



If youve never heard of San Marino, dont worry. Its the smallest independent country in Europe. The twenty-four square miles that constitute this tiny nation can be found embedded in the east coast of Italy, near the Adriatic Sea. If you squint hard, you should be able to see it on the map. If you have heard of San Marino, then you're probably a Formula One fan, as it's the home of the legendary Imola Grand Prix circuit.


With a population of just over 27,000, San Marino has only 1,200 footballers to choose from. Of these, only one of them is professional. The others all have day jobs to go to when not playing international football. It was this single professional who scored the historic goal last Wednesday night. Andy Selva, who plays for Ferrara football club in Italys Serie C1, scored a fifth minute goal that he and the other 27,000 San Marinese won't quickly forget.


The San Marrinese hope this first victory will win them some respect, as for fourteen years, the light blue jerseys of San Marino have signalled an easy game to their opposition.  They recently lost all eight games in Qualifying Group 4 of the 2004 European Championship, scoring not a single goal, and leaking in thirty. The lowest point came in 1992, when they suffered an embarrassing 10-0 defeat against Norway.


How bizarre for such footballing minnows that San Marino holds the record for the World Cup's fastest ever goal. In 1993, Davide Gualtieri scored against England with just nine seconds on the clock. True to form, San Marino lost that game 7-1, and high points like that goal have been hard to come by. After a recent draw, also against fellow strugglers Liechtenstein, coach Giampaolo Mazza was asked about the possibility of a victory. Its something weve been dreaming of since we joined UEFA and FIFA in 1988, was his reply.


Given the countries limited resources, its unlikely theyll be challenging the likes of Brazil any time soon. But this first win is something to be proud of, and should also see them rise in the FIFA World Rankings. At the very least, it's an important first step. San Marino is living, breathing proof of the old adage "everything comes to he who waits." Let's just hope it's not another seventy-three years till the next one.