Category: Asia


Aussie Aaron Joins Gulls


Torquay United have completed the signing of former Chesterfield defender Aaron Downes after the Australian centre-back was released by The Spireites in May. United had been searching for a new defender for almost a month after selling Mark Ellis to Crewe Alexandra in late June.

Beginning his career with the Australian Institute of Sport in 2003, Downes moved into English football with short non-league spells with Hampton & Richmond and Frickley Athletic. Signed for Chesterfield in August 2004 by Roy MacFarland – who had managed Torquay two years earlier – Downes made ten appearances in his first season in League One, scoring twice for his new side.

Downes has plenty of Football League experience, particularly with Chesterfield

The centre-back went on to establish himself as a regular in Chesterfield’s side, playing over 20 times in all but two of his eight seasons – including a 2011-12 campaign in which he joined Bristol Rovers on loan in January. Downes’ downfall is his tendency to pick up injuries – Torquay manager Martin Ling claims “He was going to be a massive product at Chesterfield” were it not for “a couple of bad knee injuries” that have “definitely thwarted his career”.

Following his loan spell at Rovers, Downes was deemed surplus to requirements at Chesterfield and released at the 2011-12 campaign. Unsurprisingly, he interested other Football League sides, and ironically, it was during a trial with Yeovil that Ling spotted his new man. As Torquay’s boss says: “I watched him play for Yeovil in pre-season and they wanted to take him, but as a cover player rather than a starter. I’ve told Aaron I’m looking for a left-sided centre-half and he has played 90% of his football in that position, even though he is right-footed.”

Yeovil’s loss was United’s gain, as Ling swooped to sign a defender who had met his criteria set upon selling Ellis: he stressed the need for a replacement with “experience and at least 100 games of professional football under his belt”. With Downes having amassed 174 Football League appearances for Chestefield at the age of 27, the former Australia under-23 international ticks both boxes.

Though Ling had initially promised the new centre-back would be unveiled in mid-June  – a deadline that came and went with little development revealed – most United fans are happy with their new signing. Downes will begin the season as Torquay’s first-choice centre-back alongside the unflappable Brian Saah, with fellow new recruit Tom Cruise and first-year pro Kirtys MacKenzie providing cover.

Thankfully for Torquay, the limited time Downes has to gel with new goalkeeper Michael Poke and form a cohesive defensive unit before the start of the season is compensated by the fact that the two were both on loan at Bristol Rovers last season. Downes’ new Plainmoor team-mates also seemed pleased with the signing, with left-back Kevin Nicholson taking the opportunity to welcome Aaron to the club, saying it felt “good to have another quality player on board”.

Downes himself gushed: “[I’m] really happy to be joining such a great club…can’t wait for the season to start. Thank you to all Torquay fans on Twitter who have already made me feel welcome.”

Meanwhile, former Rushden & Diamonds defender George Artemi continues to trial at Torquay, and could feature in tonight’s friendly against Tiverton Town. The 19-year-old, predominantly a centre-back, could be signed as cover either for that position or as backup to defensive midfielder Damon Lathrope.

Image: http://www1.skysports.com


Everton attacker Tim Cahill looks set to join Major League Soccer outfit New York Red Bulls after the Goodison Park club announced a deal had been agreed between the two sides. The Australian international spent 8 years at Everton, racking up over 270 appearances.

Cahill began his career at hometown club Sydney United, moving to English side Millwall on a free transfer in 1998. He soon established himself as a regular in the The Lions’ starting line-up, playing 36 times in the league in his second season at the Den. Cahill went on to reach double figures in four of his seven seasons at the club from central midfield, and scoring the winner in a FA Cup semi-final tie against Sunderland – a victory that put Millwall into the Cup final and the following season’s UEFA Cup.

Fox in the Box: Cahill in typical pose

Having narrowly avoided relegation from the Premier League the previous season, Everton boss David Moyes shelled out £1.5 million for Cahill’s services in a bid to climb up the table in 2004-05. It certainly worked – moved into a more attacking role, Cahill was Everton’s top scorer with 11 goals as the side finished in a hugely impressive fourth place.

Scoring a brilliant headed winner against Manchester City in one of his first appearances for Everton set the tone for a largely successful stay at Goodison Park which saw Cahill become a huge fans’ favourite. He scored in three of Everton’s last 5 games of the 2004-05 campaign – his final goal of the season, against Newcastle in the Blues’ penultimate game, sealed Champions League qualification.

The 32-year-old’s departure severs another link to that 2004-05 squad, who’s success Everton have failed to emulate in recent years: there are now just two players – local lads Tony Hibbert and Leon Osman – who were part of the Champions League side.

Although he stands at a modest 5 feet, 10 inches tall (hence the affectionate nickname “Tiny Tim”), Cahill’s impressive aerial ability allowed him to outjump many taller defenders. Thumping headed goals – followed by his trademark boxing celebration – became a regular sight at Goodison Park during Cahill’s eight-year stint at Everton.

One of the club’s most consistent players in recent seasons, Cahill suffered a rare blip in form during the 2011-12 campaign, netting just three times and enduring a goal drought that lasted throughout the whole of 2011. As former Everton defender David Unsworth noted: “Tim’s been a fantastic servant for Everton – a bargain buy. He’s scored many goals but his form has just waned a little bit.”

Recent months have seen Cahill linked with big-money moves to China and the United Arab Emirates, but, having ruled out moves to both countries, the former Ballon d’Or nominee found the chance to join New York Red Bulls too good to turn down. Though the American giants have yet to confirm the deal, a statement released on Everton’s official website last night read: “Everton have agreed with Major League Soccer that Tim Cahill can be transferred to the New York Red Bulls. Tim, 32, will move to the Red Bulls for a nominal fee, subject to agreeing personal terms and passing a medical. He will travel to the US in the next few days.”

That fee is believed to be in the region of £1 million, representing a decent return on Everton’s original investment, but many supporters feel Cahill’s success over the years should have warranted a larger sum. Tim will join fellow ex-Premier League players Teemu Tainio and Thierry Henry – captain of the Red Bulls – at the Eastern Conference table-toppers, but is the only Asian member of club’s squad.

Current Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard enjoyed a 5-year spell at the side, then known as the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, between 1998 and 2003.

Image: http://www.thesun.co.uk


Premier League outfit Queens Park Rangers have completed the signing of experienced South Korean midfielder Park Ji-Sung on a two-year deal. Park leaves Old Trafford after seven successful years at United during which he won four Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy.

QPR will become the fourth club of a brilliant career which has seen Park take in national honours with Kyoto Purple Sanga of Japan, Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven as well as at Manchester United – a trophy haul that makes him the most decorated Asian footballer of all time.

The 31-year-old’s experience at the highest level can only benefit QPR, and the Super Hoops will hope to utilize Park’s hard-working playing style to full effect. Similarly, Park’s versatility in midfield will be able to fill a number of positions in Mark Hughes’ squad: he can play anywhere across the middle of the park and was used as both a defensive midfielder and a winger by Manchester United.

“I’m going to QPR!? YESS!” Park is excited to join the London side

Although Park was clearly more likely to win silverware at Old Trafford than QPR’s Loftus Road – QPR boss Hughes has admitted “Ji has been attracted not to where QPR are, but where QPR are going” – he had fallen out of favour somewhat at Old Trafford during the latter years of his spell with the Red Devils, playing less than half of United’s Premier League fixtures in his last three seasons at the club.

He was often recalled for vital league, cup and European games, but Park is expected to play a much larger role at QPR, where first-team football chances are more assured. Enticed by the London club’s vision for the future, Park said: “The project was simply too good to resist and I am excited about getting started in pre-season and going on tour to Asia in the coming days. I am joining a club that is very much on an upward curve – a club that has a very bright future.”

Similarly delighted were Hughes and QPR owner Tony Fernandes: ex-United forward Hughes gushed “He is hugely respected there because of what he has achieved, his application to his work and the impact he has on games…this is a huge signing for this football club”, while a statement on the club’s official website hailed Park as a “global phenomenon”.

Fernandes, a Malaysian entrepreneur, surely appreciates Park’s value in making QPR a club attractive to the Asian market – the signing “coincides” with the team’s pre-season tour of the region. The AirAsia director said: “I am overjoyed and can’t wait to see him in a QPR shirt. It shows our determination and our ambition to build this club. Ji is a global star with a Champions League winner’s medal to his name, and he is as excited about this move as we all are.”

Park’s retirement from international football in January 2011, shortly after winning his 100th cap for South Korea, means that QPR will not face losing their new signing during the Premier League season. 26 of Park’s international appearances came after 2009, representing his country mid-season at the 2011 Asian Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Image: http://www.canvasprintsonline.com


Ghana international Asamoah Gyan has joined United Arab Emirates side Al-Ain on a permanent deal, following a loan spell at the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium last season.

Having signed for Sunderland of the Premier League in August 2010, Gyan enjoyed an impressive start to life in England in his debut season, netting 10 times in 34 league games. However, things quickly turned sour for the striker as he accepted a loan move to Al-Ain in September 2011, infuriating then-Sunderland manager Steve Bruce as well as the club’s fans.

Gyan unsurprisingly proved too much for UAE defences during his loan spell

The loan deal – rumoured to include a £6 million payment to Sunderland, as well as Gyan’s Sunderland wages being quadrupled – led Bruce to express his anger on what he viewed as a transfer made behind his back: “I had a conversation with [Gyan] 48 hours ago and he assured me, he shook my hand, that he wanted to be a Sunderland player…[but] all of a sudden within a few hours it seems things have changed.”

Gyan openly admitted that the financial benefits of the loan had been a key reason in his move, describing the deal as “too good to refuse.” With the United Arab Emirates typically a destination for over-the-hill internationals looking for one last payday, Gyan had moved to Al-Ain aged just 25, prompting Bruce to tell English press: “I don’t think he’s got a future here.”

While Sunderland initially missed Gyan’s goals – Bruce was sacked in November with the club having won just 2 of its opening 13 Premier League games – they soon recovered under new manager Martin O’Neill, reaching the quarter-final of the FA Cup and finished mid-table in the league.

Gyan also enjoyed success, becoming the UAE Pro-League’s top scorer with 22 goals in just 18 games as Al-Ain cruised to the title. With O’Neill also reluctant to welcome Asamoah back into the first-team picture at the Stadium of Light – saying “you wouldn’t really want somebody who is really unwilling to come back to the football club” – the Accra-born attacker has unsurprisingly decided to join Al-Ain on a permanent basis.

The 58-cap Ghana international may be Al-Ain’s biggest star, but he is by no means the first to make the transition from Premier League to Pro League: former Coventry and Aston Villa midfielder Mustapha Hadji joined the club in 2004, while ex-Portsmouth coach Alain Perrin managed The Boss in the same year.

Image: http://www.footballspotlite.com


There are times, such as the ongoing transfer sagas of Torquay playmaker Eunan O’Kane and defender Mark Ellis, when even the club’s most loyal followers are left in the dark as to what is happening. Spare a thought, then, for Dubai-based Gulls fan Sam Jones, who lives over 4,500 miles away from his beloved Plainmoor.

Thankfully for Sam, the modern football fan can easily keep track of most ongoings through internet and television coverage – although, as the man himself explains, that’s not always the case. Following matches, particularly League Two games, via internet updates is a perilous position for any football fan, prone to internet crashes and slow connections. Equally, the lack of League Two media coverage in England, let alone the United Arab Emirates, can sometimes make it hard to keep up-to-date with proceedings.

It’s a credit to Sam, then, that he continues to follow Torquay through thick and thin, in a country where League Two football is not only ignored, but often laughed at! The locals’ favourite clubs – Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid – may be more glamorous and successful, but as Sam will explain, once a bond has been forged with a club, it is not easily broken.

I caught up with the Welshman to quiz him on taking the “fan from afar” concept to a new level, impressive air miles and cherished Torquay moments.

What made you support Torquay in the first place; what was the first Torquay game you attended; and how long have you been supporting them?

My parents bought a house in Torquay in 2005 so I have been supporting them since then. We thought we should support the local team, so the first time we were there we went down to a match – it was Christmas 2005 and Torquay drew 2-2 with Wycombe Wanderers. It was the season before Torquay went down and I have followed them keenly ever since.

Morike Sako celebrates during Sam’s first ever Torquay game, against Wycombe in 2005

Why did you move to Dubai, and how difficult is it to keep up-to-date with Torquay’s results and transfers from over 4,000 miles away?

I moved to Dubai in 2009 from Norway because of my Dad’s work as he is in the oil business, and stayed there because of schooling. Keeping up-to-date is not as difficult as people think, especially with the internet and sites such as the BBC or Sky Sports. They have the rolling updates so we can keep up with the latest scores. Transfers are harder because [Torquay] are a smaller club and obviously the Premier League transfers appear first on these sites, but fortunately the Torquay United website is up-to-date. The worst problems are when the updates are slow in tight games – for example, during the game against Crewe at the end of the season, we lost internet connection! Imagine how we felt when we saw they had equalized in the last minute!

How many Torquay games do you attend each season, and which was the most recent match you attended?

I try to attend as many as I can. Often it is only the friendlies due to the time we’re back in the UK, but last year I got to see a couple of league games at the beginning of the season. I saw the 2-2 draw with Burton and the 3-1 loss to Crawley at home. Little did I guess that we would have made the play-offs after seeing those matches. Next year I’m going to university in Cardiff so hopefully I’ll get to watch more as I’ll be back in the UK and not that far from Torquay.

It must be strange to watch a completely different set of Torquay players on each of your visits to Plainmoor. Does that make it harder to feel attached to the club?

Unfortunately, that is the curse of the lower-league clubs – the turnover is massive. Yet, this has not made me feel less attached to them. When I first started supporting, the team consisted of players such as Kevin Hill, Morike Sako and Tony Bedeau among others. None of that generation is still at the club [all three had left by 2008], but in recent years more players have stayed on for longer. Ever since Torquay went down [in 2006-07] the core of the team has been the same with players such as Lee Mansell, Kevin Nicholson and Danny Stevens, which of course makes it easier to feel attached to. Also, having [former manager Paul] Buckle for a number of years helped as well, but at the end of the day it is the club that I support, not the individual players.

Play-off final misery in 2011: “so much work goes to waste”

What is your favourite match and most memorable moment from your time supporting Torquay? And your least favourite?

My favourite match has to be Boxing Day 2008 when I went to the West Country Derby. Torquay beat Exeter 1-0 through a Tim Sills goal and he celebrated right in front of the Family Stand! It was an incredible experience as it was my first game in over year and I had never seen Plainmoor so full.

My favourite moment has to be promotion back to the League [in 2008-09] – a bit cliche, but true! My worst memory has to have been losing out on promotion last year. Despite the fact we were relegated in 2007, that was almost inevitable, yet losing the play-off final in 2011 was the worst as so much work goes to waste, and it was on Dubai TV!

Are there any other Torquay fans or supporters of other League Two clubs in Dubai?

I’m sure there are! There are so many British expats here [an estimated 240,000 in 2012] that there has to be supporters of League Two clubs. I’ve met a couple of Swindon fans, Gillingham fans and supporters of other clubs but have not found any fellow Gulls! I am actually about to start a club called Dubai Gulls to act as the official UAE fan group for TUFC and we’re going to sponsor a couple of the youth players to help the club.

How do people in Dubai react when you tell them you support Torquay? Have Emirati people heard of the club or the town?

I have only met a couple of Emiratis but when I tell them about Torquay they tend to ask who they are! Then when I say they’re in the fourth division, they start laughing and say “you should support Real Madrid or Barcelona”! Most people haven’t even heard of the town or club – that’s Western expats as well! A lot of the football-loving Brits do know about the club and the town so it is well known in the British expat communities.

Plainmoor: better than Camp Nou

Which club is the most supported by the people of Dubai, and how big is support for the game in the United Arab Emirates?

Football is massive in the UAE but the biggest game by a mile is cricket as there are loads of Indian and Pakistani workers. Amongst the Emirati population football is the main sport but most tend to support foreign clubs such as Real and Barca. The support for local clubs is not great as the stadiums are rarely even half full, but it is improving. There is a lot of money in the game though, with big names such as Fabio Cannavaro, David O’Leary, David Trezeguet and most notably Diego Maradona, having roles at clubs either in the form of playing or as a manager. The Pro League is very competitive but the standard of football is not great, with the most recent champions being Al-Ahli, who are also the most successful. The biggest club in Dubai is Al-Wasl as Maradona is their manager.

Have you attended any UAE Premier League games during your stay in Dubai?

I have not, for two main reasons. First, it has a reputation that if you’re not Emirati, you’re not welcome. Second, I have no idea where the stadiums are! All the information about games is in Arabic and I don’t speak a word of it! I watch it on the TV sometimes when it’s on, but that’s rare.

Finally, do you consider yourself to be Torquay’s most loyal foreign-based fan? Surely the amount of miles you have to travel to be at a Torquay game makes you one of the club’s most devoted followers?

Well, I would like to think that I am one of them. I do my best to keep track of news, scores and transfers and whenever I am back in the UK we watch a game, be it a friendly or league match. I would fly back more and watch them,  as the highlight of my trips back to the UK are my visits to Plainmoor and the matches I attend. I am sure that somewhere in the world there are Torquay fans that fly back for the matches, but with the resources I have, I can consider myself one of Torquay’s most devoted.

Photos: Torquay 2-2 Wycombe, 2005 – www.wycombewanderers.co.uk; Eunan O’Kane – http://backpagefootball.com


Club Focus: Dalian Shide


This north-eastern Chinese club was founded in 1983 to replace struggling second-tier side Dalian Dockyards. It’s a decision that has certainly paid off: with eight league titles, an Asian Champions League semi-final and three FA Cups to their name, Dalian Shide are the most successful Chinese club in history.

Dalian's current badge - their fourth design since 2000

In 1984, soon after their formation, the club won promotion to the Chinese top-flight after twice finishing as champions of the second division. Relegation in 1988 could have seen Dalian fall back into obscurity, but the side nickamed “Eight-Star Dalian” recovered to earn a Jia A-League place for the 1990 season. They finished in an impressive third place in their return to the big time, just five points shy of a  first A-League title. Top-flight stability over the next few years followed, before  Dalian won a first league title in the inaugural professional Chinese league in 1994, powered by the goals of local boy Wang Tao.

A third-placed finish in 1995 was succeeded by an incredible haul of six titles in seven years, a record only punctuated by a ninth-placed slot in 1999. The turn of the century saw the club’s name changed from Dalian Wanda FC (the result of sponsorship from the Dalian Wanda group in 1994) to the current moniker, Dalian Shide. The glory years of the 1990s also witnessed a change of stadium, with Dalian settling in the 31,000-capacity Jinzhou Stadium in 1997.

The first years of the new millennium saw more of the same: further league titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002 firmly cemented Dalian as China’s number one club, but the success gradually dried up as the decade progressed. The reincarnation of the top flight as the Chinese Super League in 2004 has coincided with a fall in fortunes for Dalian – a solitary league title in 2005 is their only Super League championship, and since then the club has failed to finish higher than fifth as other sides have improved. Indeed, Dalian only avoided relegation in 2008 by three points, a perilous position that could have seen them relegated had it not been for Wuhan Optics Valley’s withdrawal.

Mid-table mediocrity in recent years was coupled with the tragedy of losing midfielder Zhang Yalin to lymphoma in February 2010, following the player’s two-year battle  with the disease. A one-club man, Yalin’s loyalty to Dalian has been somewhat repaid with the club posthumously retiring the shirt number 26 in his honour.

Seven games into the current campaign, Dalian lie second-bottom with just one win to their name. The club will need to improve greatly over the coming months in order to survive the dreaded drop into the Chinese League One.

Although hamstrung in its appeal to European fans by the Super League’s limit on foreign players – 5 per team, including at least one Asian – Dalian’s squad still boasts some players that are vastly experienced at the highest level of both international and club football. Full-back Ricardo Esteves enjoyed first-team football at Benfica as a youngster, before moving on to Braga and Paços de Ferreira. In 2004, with his career seemingly going nowhere in his native Portugal, Esteves moved to Italy to join Serie A outfit Reggina. Relative success followed as Reggina, a traditionally second-tier club, finished mid-table, while Esteves netted his first league goal for six years. This rare goal proved to be significant: Esteves’ 32-minute leveller restricted Reggina’s opponent Bologna to one point instead of all three, and at the end of the season, Bologna were relegated on goal difference. Further spells in Italy, Portgual, Greece and South Korea followed before Dalian snapped up the 32-year-old from Marítimo last season.

Dalian have also looked to South America to fill their foreign player slots. Brazilian forward Adriano (not that one) has previously played in his homeland for Brazilian giants Fluminense and Palmeiras but looked to Asia to kick-start his career.  It’s certainly worked – four goals from just seven starts represents Adriano’s best goal return since a loan spell with Bahia in 2010.  Intriguingly, the player’s Wikipedia entry claims that he is “sometimes called by his nickname, ‘Adriano Michael Jackson'”.

Zambia international James Chamanga celebrates scoring against Sudan in the 2012 African Cup of Nations

Bulgarian frontman Martin Kumburov, signed in 2010, provides the regular goalscorer so important to a team that will be battling relegation this season. Dalian’s motives for signing Kumburov, capped 15 times by his country, are clear to see – 73 goals in 91 games for Lokomotiv Plovdiv and 33 in 44 for Lokomotiv Sofia show just how prolific the Svilengrad-born striker can be. Kumburov lived up to his billing in his first season at the club, netting 7 goals in 15 appearances. This season he has already earned Dalian three points just by himself – the Bulgarian nabbed both goals in a 2-1 victory over Qingdao Jonoon, including a late winner. Kumburov’s goals will be key in Dalian’s fight against the drop.

Completing a thoroughly global foreign roster is Zambian forward James Chamanga, a former goal-machine for Moroka Swallows in South Africa. Chamanga’s goalscoring exploits even include a scarcely believable four-minute hat-trick against Platinum Stars in 2007.  Unsurprisingly, the Zambian has become a regular at international level, racking up almost a half-century of caps and representing the Copper Bullets at African Nations Cups in 2006 and the victorious 2012 campaign. Chamanga joined Dalian in 2008, and although he hasn’t been as prolific in China as elsewhere, the African has chipped in with often invaluable strikes.

Shide’s current boss, Esteves’ countryman Nelo Vingada, boasts a lengthy and varied managerial career. Years of experience coaching at club level in Portugal, Egypt, Morroco and Iran are supplemented by spells managing his country and the national sides of Saudi Arabia and Jordan. On paper, at least, Dalian are in safe hands. That’s just as well – the club will need all the help it can get in its most testing season for many years.

Palau – Going Nowhere?


Who? Exactly. Palau are one of a number of tiny islands whose football teams have been out of action for over a decade. Located in the Pacific Ocean with a population of just 20,000, Palau is never going to be a football superpower, even in FIFA’s weaker confederations.

Football on the island began in March of 1987 when a Palau side competed in the Oceania Club Championship. Unsurprisingly, Palau were knocked out by Vanuatu in the competition’s first round, losing 6-2, but this should have been an important stepping stone in making Palau’s team competitive against their equally minute rivals.

However, the country’s football fanatics (all 3 of them) had to wait until July 1998 for Palau’s next match. The delay between games may have been disappointing but the result certainly wasn’t – Palau registered their first ever win with a 7-1 thumping of Pohnpei, a side that has been coached by Englishman Paul Watson in recent years. The success continued in the next match with another 7-1 victory, against another Micronesian state. Both of these wins came at the 1998 Micronesian Games held in Palau, but even home advantage wasn’t enough to help the side claim the comparatively large scalps of Guam and Northern Marianas Islands in August 1998.

Palau were thrashed 15-2 by Guam and 12-1 by Northern Marianas Islands. Considering Guam themselves were annihilated 21-0 by North Korea in 2005, Palau still had a long way to go, but the future looked bright as long as regular, competitive matches against similar opposition were set up.

Unfortunately, this never happened. That miserable 12-1 loss to Northern Marianas Islands on 2 August 1998 remains Palau’s most recent international fixture. As the 20th century drew to a close progress appeared to have stagnated and football seemed to be in decline on the island.

Palau

The "Competition Calendar" section of the Palau FA's website is comically free of dates

However, hope was offered by the formation of the Palau Soccer League in 2004. The first edition was won by Daewoo Ngatpang who defeated Mount Everest Nepal in the final. Other countries had showed that creating a national league could be a vital step in forming a competitive national side; Paul Watson formed his Pohnpeian team from the National League’s best players, and this is something that could have been copied in Palau.

Again, however, this failed to materialize. While the league continued to provide hope for the standard of football on the island, with annual tournaments starting to be set up, the most recent championship was in 2007 and the league now appears to have been disbanded. The fact that the most recent winners were Team Bangladesh suggests that foreigners were more enthusiastic than the locals, and now that Palau no longer has any evidence of football being played places huge doubt on the chances of the island ever playing an international match again.

Incredibly, 2009 saw the East Asian Football Federation announce that they had received a request from Palau to become a “quasi-member” of the association, once more providing hope for a seemingly lost cause. But without a league and having last played over a decade ago, you could be forgiven for thinking Palau’s application may not be immediately accepted. That seems to be the case – with no further developments on the request, Palau will continue to drift further and further away from their next international game until something changes.

One bright spot is the Palau Football Association’s work to give youngsters the chance to play the game. Although the PFA website invites mockery by boasting that it reaches the rather modest sum of “approximately 200 youth per year through school and after school activities” any attempt to improve matters can only be seen as positive. Woefully short of funds, the PFA relies on “a handful of parents/coaches” to keep football going. It appears that an unlikely invitation to join the EAFF is Palau’s only hope – and although youth coaching is promising, an adult league and team is needed for this to happen.

With the right structure and leadership, Palau could have been on a par with countries such as Guam and Northern Marianas Islands, but no-one has taken control of football on the island, allowing facilities and enthusiasm to gradually rot away. It could have all been so different.