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Soup of This Day #104: I’ve Done My Sentence But Committed No Crime

November 25, 2011

American Samoa beach on Ofu
A beach on Ofu, part of American Samoa. To hell with football, give me 1 of those cocktails in a coconut please – Photo: Acepharma, 2003. Acepharma is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

It’s hard to judge who the worst football team in the world is. There’s a lot of teams across many leagues and comparing them is going to be difficult. Do you consider the team of 5 year olds who never score a goal or win a game but have a great time nonetheless? How about the team I played for that lost 12 straight, conceding 36 and scoring 0?

I was over 25 by then and no, I didn’t really have a good time. Sometimes it is about whether you win or lose. Sometimes it’s also about whether you can actually score a goal and maintain a shred of dignity. And sometimes it’s about whether your team-mates can be arsed taking a break from playing NBA Live on the Xbox for long enough to turn up to a game. Jimmy, Bastian, Dude-Who’s-Name-I’ve-Forgotten, I’m looking at you guys…

In the professional sphere we could consider Scotland’s East Stirlingshire – the team so awful that in 2005 journo Jeff Connor wrote a book about them that was thoughtfully called, ‘Pointless: A Season with Britain’s Worst Football Team’.

Jeff may have been bitter about his experiences following them.

They were certainly crap – In the 2003/04 season they played 36 games, out of which they could muster just 30 goals. Sadly for them their opponents managed a slightly larger total of 118 goals and as such ‘The Shire’ won just twice, drawing 2 other outings and losing 32. With a total of 8 points they were dead last by some margin. To be honest had they tripled their points total they still would have been last. The next year, as Connor perversely followed them, they managed a slightly more respectable 22 points but still finished last. Fortuitously none of this really mattered – The Scottish League system has 4 divisions, including the Premier League. Because the number of teams with suitable grounds is low it’s actually very difficult, in fact nigh on impossible, to be relegated out of the bottom tier and thus into football oblivion.

Even if you’re actually not very good at football.

To combat the scenario that a team could be not good at football yet still persist in a reputable football competition the Scottish League introduced a series of rules after the 2004/05 season. Aimed squarely at East Stirlingshire the rules stated that if a team finished last 2 years in succession then it would lose voting rights and be labelled an Associate Member of the League. You could play for a further 2 seasons after that and then your fellow teams could vote you out of League existence if they so wished.

East Stirlingshire promptly finished stone-motherless last in 2005/06 (23 points) and again in 2006/07 (21). The Scottish League took pity on them though, I’m guessing primarily because everyone liked having somebody they could beat, and punishment was suspended for 1 year. In 2007/2008 they won their final game of the season and ensured temporary survival as they pipped Forfar by 1 point for 9th and 2nd-last place.

Yep, they’re truly not that good.

But to call yourself the worst in the world, well, you need an international element. And the worst international football team in the world, at least by FIFA rankings is American Samoa.

The American Samoa football team stinks like a dead fish that has had time to ferment in the hot sun and then has had extra stink stuff sprayed on to it.

They’re ranked 204th and equal last in the world of international football, at least in part because they lost 30 games in a row. That’s a stunning statistic when you consider that they’re a relatively new outfit that has only played 31 FIFA-sanctioned matches across slightly less than 20 years.

The number 31 is a little special for them: In 2001 they lost to Australia by 31 to nil. That, in case you were curious, is the world record for an international football match. It was a 2002 World Cup qualifier and you’ll no doubt be shocked to hear that American Samoa didn’t quite make it to the next round. Australia did make it to th next round but ultimately didn’t make it through to the 2002 World Cup finals, eliminated by Uruguay by an aggregate score of 3-1, which is like 31 only a lot more respectable.

It still hurt though.

Over their 30 match losing spread the American Samoans have scored just 12 times. At the other end of the pitch they have conceded 229 times for a goal difference of 227. In World Cup qualifying they have conceded a comparatively frugal 129 times but have only scored twice.

American Samoa does have a small population, just under 56,000 in the 2010 census. They’ve defied this small sample size in other sporting realms, most notably in American Football. In 2010 28 NFL players were American Samoans. Go down into the collegial system and that number balloons to around 200 in Division 1. Australia has 22.7m people – Know how many Aussies are currently duking it out in the NFL? 3. They’re all punters. So the American Samoans are pretty good at American Football, possibly because despite the name there isn’t a great deal of foot-meets-ball action going on. Which is good for the American Samoans who are clearly pretty ordinary at that.

Until now.

See, that 30 games in a row that they lost were their 1st 30. For their 31st they played Tonga this past Tuesday, 22nd of November, 2011, in a World Cup qualifier. They have no hope of qualifing and neither frankly does Tonga. What the American Samoans did have was a vague hope of getting a win, their 1st. They may even have settled for a draw – They haven’t managed that yet either.

They got a win.

American Samoa 2 defeated Tonga 1. Goals to Ramin Ott on 44min (from 40m no less) and Kaneti Falela on 72min overmatched a Tongan reply from Unaloto Faeo on 87min. I can’t calculate where this puts American Samoa in the FIFA rankings but I reckon Andorra, Montserrat, Samoa and San Marino, who all share 204th place, should be looking pretty nervous right now as might be the Tongans (202nd). 1 further point of note: Goalkeeper Nicky Salapu played in that 31 goal shellacking by the Socceroos. On Tuesday, over 10 years later, he finally got to bury some hurt as he conceded just once.

Footnote: Yesterday, Thursday 24th America Samoa got it’s 1st draw to go alongside that win, a 1-1 result against the Cook Islands (196th). I reckon American Samoa might be surging up those rankings now.

I’ve Done My Sentence But Committed No Crime

  1. At the time of commenting, April 14, 2012, American Samoa are in 186th place on the rankings table. This is a full 61 points better off than last placed Andorra, Montserrat, San Marino and Turks and Caicos Islands. Those 4 are in equal 205th and have 0 points.

    Well done lads.

    East Stirlingshire meanwhile are rock bottom of the Scottish 3rd Division (4th tier) once more. They’re 8 points from 2nd last and a whopping 51 points from the top. That’s the equivalent of winning 17 games – A problem given that ‘The Shire’ have won just 5 of 32 so far and there are just 4 games to play.

  2. And yes, I’m aware that I’m commenting on my own blog. It’s just that I’m halfway through a really long post and I just felt like writing something shorter for a change.

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