BY STEVEN WYSON
There’s a lot to be said for playing professional football for an island football team. With the islands we’re looking at at least, the weather is pretty good, the lifestyle is relaxed and you are out of the public eye and free to live your life in a way that you’re not really when you play on the mainland of a major footballing nation.
Oh, and there’s the fact you’re still getting paid to play football. So if any island football clubs are watching and are in desperate need of a 23-year-old with an eye for a pass but not the ability to actually play the pass and one dodgy ankle.
When I say an island football team, we’re interested in teams that play on an island but are part of a larger mainland league. For example, APOEL Nicosia are an island football club in the sense that they are a football club from the island of Cyprus, but they play in the Cypriot league. If they played in the Greek Super League, they would be eligible. Rankings on based on current strength rather than historical.
It seems bizarre that Palermo, who may have topped this seven in years gone by, miss out altogether by virtue of their financial ruin and forced relegation into the fourth tier of Italian football, but at least we’ve given them a mention. Cristiano Ronaldo spent two years at Nacional before signing for Sporting Clube de Portugal, and the club were relegated from the Portuguese Primeira Liga last season, meaning they’ll be playing in the second tier next season.
Head Coach Yannis Anastasiou of Panathinaikos in action during the Greek Cup semi-final match between Panathinaikos FC and OFI Crete FC at the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium on April 16.
The more intuitive of our viewers out there may have deduced from their name that OFI Crete, which isn’t actually their official name I should point out, hail from the largest and most populous of all the beautiful Greek islands, Crete. Not only do OFI compete in the top flight of Greek football, they actually hold the record for the most consecutive appearances in the Greek Super League. Despite that, they’ve never actually won the league, coming closest when they finished as runners-up back in 1985-86.
Club Deportivo Tenerife have impressive pedigree, having spent virtually the entire 1990’s in La Liga, having been managed by the likes of Jupp Heynckes and Rafa Benitez, and once having made the last four of the UEFA Cup. They have been playing outside of La Liga ever since their most recent top flight relegation in 2010 though, and finished in a not particularly inspiring 16th place last season. Interestingly, here is a picture of our fifth place entrants CD Tenerife playing our seventh placed entrants CD Nacional in a friendly game back in 1925.
Carlos Casemiro of Real Madrid CF scores their second goal from a header during the La Liga match between UD Las Palmas and Real Madrid CF at Estadio de Gran Canaria on March 13, 2016 in.
From one Canary Island club to another, Tenerife and Las Palmas contest the Canary Islands derby and are widely considered the two best teams on the island. Las Palmas have been the more successful of the two in derby games and they also come in one place ahead of Tenerife here, having finished 12th in the Segunda Division last season. Las Palmas were La Liga runners-up back in 1968-69, sandwiched between Real Madrid in first and Barcelona in third, and they play out of the 32,400 capacity Estadio Gran Canaria.
Returning to the Madeiran capital of Funchal, C.S. Maritimo are the best team from the Portuguese island right now. Three teams compete in what is known as the Madeira derby, but whilst Uniao are in the third tier right now and Nacional are in the second, Maritimo finished 11th in the Primeira Liga last season. Whilst Nacional supporters are associated with the wealthier portion of Madeirans, Maritimo are considered to be the team of the working class, and much of their rivalry stems from this fact.
Cagliari Calcio, better known simply as Cagliari, are the second best island football team by our criteria in the world right now. Based on the Italian island of Sardinia, Cagliari are former Serie A title winners, having been inspired to the title thanks to the goals of Italian legend and the club’s greatest ever player Gigi Riva in 1969-70. Cagliari finished 15th in Serie A last season, and they will celebrate their 100 year anniversary next year.
Arguably the best island football team in the world right now, RCD Mallorca will be playing in La Liga this season, having won promotion from the Segunda Division last season. Hailing from Palma in Mallorca, Real Club Deportivo Mallorca won the Copa del Rey back in 2003, when they still had record goal scorer Samuel Eto’o on their books. This season will be the Spanish outfits first back in La Liga since 2013, and no doubt survival will be the aim.