Saint Helena

Saint Helena

  • Capital: Jamestown
  • Districts of Saint Helena: Alarm Forest, Blue Hill Village, Half Tree Hollow, Jamestown, Levelwood, Longwood, Sandy Bay, and Saint Paul’s.
  • Official Languages: English
  • Association: Saint Helena Football Association (SHFA)

Records

  • Best Inter Games Tournament Result (Men): 10th Place (2019)

Saint Helena is a British possession which is located in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is a very remote volcanic tropical island which is situated 1,210 miles west of the coast of southwestern Africa and 2,500 miles east of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Saint Helena is one of the three constituent sections of the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha. As of the 2016 census, Saint Helena was recorded as having a population of 4,534 inhabitants and is one of the remotest inhabited islands on earth.

Saint Helena is named after Saint Helena of Constantinople (Helen Augusta or Saint Helena was an empress of the Roman Empire and the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great). It was found to be uninhabited when discovered by the Portuguese in 1502 and for hundreds of years it was an important stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and Southern Africa. Saint Helena is arguably best known for being the location that Napoléon Bonaparte was exiled to following his final defeat in 1815.

Despite cricket being considered to be the most popular sport in Saint Helena, the sport of football still plays a major role in the lives of the islanders. This is backed up by the fact that the St. Helena Football Association has been in existence since the early 1920’s and has overseen the SHFA League Championship since then and continues to do so to this day. The league is competed for over set weekends during the island’s winter season. All of the games are played on Francis Plain, which is reported to be the only area of flat land on the island to be big enough to contain football pitches. As well as the main championship, there is also junior football league competition on the island too.

The first ever champions of the SHFA League Championship was a club by the name of Old Boys in 1922. Since those early days of the championship other winners have included the likes of Wanderers, Daffodils, Bellboys, and most recently, Rovers in 2020. In fact it is Rovers who currently have the best record of title wins since 1979 with a total of 18 to their name. There is also a district competition held on the island with the current holders of this title being the district of Jamestown (2020) having also won it in 2019.

In terms of international football the Saint Helena team played it’s first ever international match on 12th July 2019 against Ynys Môn (Anglesey) which resulted in a 7-2 victory for their opponents. This game was used as a warm up for the 2019 Inter Games Football Tournament held in Ynys Môn. Two days before this game, Saint Helena did play another warm up match against Holyhead Hotspur Reserves, a club team based in Ynys Môn, Saint Helena triumphed in this game by 2 goals to 0.

In that 2019 Inter Games Tournament, Saint Helena came up against Shetland and Guernsey in the group stage, and the Western Isles in the 9th place playoff, and lost each game 1-6 and 0-9 in the group stage matches, and finally 1-2 in the playoff respectively to finish tenth in the competition. Despite the results this tournament will go down in history as the first time a Saint Helena representative team had played in an international football tournament, which is the most important thing.

The national football team of Saint Helena [IMAGE: SHFA]

To find out more about a team who are very new to international football, but come from an island with a long history in the game, we spoke to the excellent Nick Stevens. Nick is the chairman of the SHFA and was also the coach for the Saint Helena team during the 2019 Inter Games Football Tournament. You can find out more about football in Saint Helena, including regular results from the SHFA League Championship, by following the SHFA on Facebook using the link below:

Q. Who would you say is Saint Helena’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

The national team has only been active since 2019 with our only tournament to date being the Island Games [Inter Games] tournament held in Ynys Môn in June 2019, I was the manager for this tournament.

Our most outstanding player was and still is forward Rico Benjamin.

Rico Benjamin taking a free kick for Saint Helena in a warm up game in preparation for the 2019 Island Games Tournament. [IMAGE: SHFA]

Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the representative team?

The team hasn’t had a competitive game since 2019 although we were planning to have a match against HMS Protector on the 8th September of this year. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to play an 11-a-side match due to the pitch at Francis Plain being waterlogged. However, we were able to play a series of 5-a-side games against the navy team.

The Saint Helena team pictured before they departed for the 2019 Island Games Tournament. [IMAGE: SHFA]

Q. Are there any players from Saint Helena who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the island?

We have an abundance of young talent; Joey Thomas (17-years-old), Matthias Young (19-year-old midfielder), Brett Isaac (19-year-old midfielder), Aiden Yon-Stevens (16-years-old), and Jerome Peters (15-year-old goalkeeper)

Q. Looking at Saint Helena’s short international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the island team in your opinion?

Our best game was the team’s 2-0 win against Holyhead Hotspur reserves in June 2019.

Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?

The worst moment was the 2-1 defeat to the Western Isles [in the 9th place playoff during the 2019 Inter Games Tournament], a match we should have won.

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Saint Helena representative team?

We had the most fans at the tournament other than the hosts, Ynys Môn, as St. Helenians travelled from all over the world to see us play in our first international tournament.

The worst thing is the lack of games that we can play in, which makes following us almost impossible.

Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?

‘Oh when the Saints go marching in’ of course (the people of St Helena are known as “Saints“)

‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ – Louis Armstrong

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the island team?

The football shirt worn at the 2019 Island Games Tournament [IMAGE: SHFA]

We have only had the one shirt, which was worn at the Inter Games football tournament in 2019.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Saint Helena island team?

Our next mission is to raise £60,000 so that we can compete in the International Island Games in Guernsey, scheduled for June 2023.

A massive thank you to Nick Stevens from the Saint Helena Football Association for answering our questions on the Saint Helena island team. Remember you can find a link to the Association’s Facebook page at the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com, or send a message to the author @Gareth19801, or the editor at @The94thMin, on Twitter.

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