The league that can field only 2 teams for the game of 2 halves | Readings for 21 November 2006

St. Mary’s Island, the main island of the 140-island archipelago, photographed 4 April 2006. (coalvillestation | Flickrâ„¢)

Hugh Town, Isles of Scilly, England | The smallest football league season in the world consists of two sides on this archipelago, once the province of pirates, off the southwest coast of England. “The weekly routine is the football equivalent of Groundhog Day,” writes Steven Morris. Garrison Gunners and Woolpack Wanderers play 13 league games and two cup competitions, including the Daily Mirror Cup. “Lots of people turn up and sing ‘Can we play you every week?’ and each thinks they are the first to think of it,” writes Charlie Connelly (“The Last British Football Team,” Guardian Unlimited, 12 Oct 05). Morris adds:

[W]hat stops the players becoming too tribal is the school-playground-like selection procedure. At the start of each season the two captains sit down and pick new teams from the pool of available players to represent the yellow of Gunners or the claret of Wanderers.

On Boxing Day, Dec 26, is the annual match versus the islands’ “old men.” The problem in Scilly, with a population of some 2,000, is holding on to young people. With children leaving at 16 to continue their education on the mainland, “[o]ften they do not return until they are much older because there is little work for them outside the tourist season.” (Guardian, 20 Nov 06)

Somalia | Islamic rulers label sport a satanic act
After assuming control of Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia in June, the Union of Islamic Courts banned sport during Ramadan as part of an imposition of Sharia law. The country has lacked central government since 1991. Now, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys heads the Shura of the Islamic Courts Union with sports falling under the purview of a strict Islamist regime that has demanded an end to sports news and commentary.


Shafici Mohyaddin Abokar of the Somali Sports Press Association writes that domestic sport is “in its blackest period.” Twenty-two children playing football in Mogadishu during Ramadan were detained for more than five hours until their parents pledged they would prevent the children from playing soccer in the future. Also, nine men were arrested for watching football on television and instructed to read the Qur’an.

Earlier, during the World Cup finals, a cinema owner and girl were killed as a crowd objected to soldiers trying to shut down the cinema in Dhuusa Marreeb where fans had gathered to watch the Italy–Germany semifinal. Militia fired into the crowd when some began throwing stones. Aweys said soldiers would be prosecuted under Islamic statutes (“Somalia Soccer Shooting Arrests,” BBC, 6 Jul 06).

Some places had banned World Cup broadcasts due to the advertisements for alcohol, indicating inconsistencies in sports policy within the Islamists’ zone of influence. Decisions concerning governance of women’s sport have been postponed. An ICU information officer said sports had not been banned but that spectators must listen to “recordings … of Islamic verses from loud speakers mounted at all stadiums.” (Play the Game, 20 Nov 06)

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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