Okay, so they suck at football but I love them. I support them in all their games, even against England. Facing almost certain defeat in every game, it takes persistence, spirit and a solid pair of balls to keep coming out and trying your best.
I’m especially enamoured with their first choice keeper, Aldo Simoncini. Not only does he sometimes impress me with his goalkeeping but his life story and attitude are really inspiring. Read this article about him and tell me you don’t admire his spirit.
Actually, the team and manager are always universally positive in interviews. They’re proud to play for their country despite the overwhelming odds against them. They aren’t naive – they’re very realistic about their chances – but they’re just happy to have the opportunity to play on some of the world’s biggest stages.
When you look at the facts, it’s easy to see why they’re stuck at the bottom of the FIFA rankings. San Marino has a population of about 33,000; nobody expects a Messi or Ronaldo to appear in a pool of that size. In fact, San Marino has a dearth of professional footballers of any level. The team comprises only a couple of players that make a full-time living playing football; the rest of them are part-timers with day jobs ranging from accountant to carpenter.
It’s hard not to admire a bunch of guys holding down full-time jobs and still finding the time, energy and motivation to train and play football at an international level. You just know that they must really love the game. It’s a combination of passion, enthusiasm and relentless optimism that makes the San Marino team the greatest and most lovable underdog in international football.
Needless to say, I’m completely opposed to those who say that San Marino shouldn’t be allowed to compete in qualification for the World Cup and Euro tournaments. I’d present an argument for the position that international football should be open to all nations but that isn’t really what this post is about.