Tristan da Cunha, an archipelago comprised of dozens of islands is situated in the South Atlantic Ocean over 1200 miles from the nearest inhabited place. It is the most remote human settlement on the face of the earth. Tristan da Cunha is also the name of the largest island in the archipelago and has a population of about 270. They have a shop, a school, a hospital and, yes, you’ve guessed it, a football team. TDF FC.
It has been reported that football was introduced to the locals in the 1920s by Rev. Henry Rogers and remains the island’s favourite sport. Rose, Henry’s wife wrote about informal kick-a-bouts continuing for years and fast became a part of Tristanian culture. The islanders would split themselves into two teams and play friendly matches, especially on dates of special occasions, such as weddings, christenings etc. In fact, it seems the sport grew so popular that if there was any excuse for football to be played, then the Islanders were game.
In 1940 Tristan da Cunha’s footballers played their first international game against the crew of a Norwegian ship. Unfortunately, no record remains of the score. In the ensuing years, the beautiful game flourished with the Islanders playing matches against crews from vessels of various nationalities, including ships from the Royal Navy.
The entire population of Tristan da Cunha was evacuated to England in 1961 due to the eruption of the volcano, St Mary’s Peak. They returned two years later. Football lost some of its popularity after they returned to their homes in 1963 but if we fast forward 37 years, something was introduced that changed everything virtually overnight. Televised football. Whilst this was a good thing in that it restored interest in football, it had the inevitable consequence of islanders now walking around in ‘Rooney’ shirts.
After watching football on television, a group of islanders, led by a gentleman by the name of Leon Glass, decided that they would start their own football team.
Tristan da Cunha FC was formed in 2002. A local fishing company bought them a kit (white shirts and blue shorts) They had a very basic pitch on American Field, named in recognition of the American forces stationed there during the war. However, opponents were in short supply. It was a case of waiting for visiting opponents and sometimes years might go by without any opportunities to play foreign opposition. Their first match was against a South African fishing vessel and they lost 10-6.
It seems unlikely that another club will form on the island. However, Glass insists that the islanders are still avid football fans. “The Islanders are extremely supportive of the team” he says, before continuing: “we always have a good turnout for our games”.
The remoteness of Tristan da Cunha makes it virtually impossible for the team to travel abroad to play against foreign opposition. The island has no airport.
In recent times, the club’s numbers have dropped to a level whereby only 5-a-side matches are being played. The ‘accolade’ of being the most remote team in the world hangs like Coleridge’s albatross round the neck of its players. They neither cherish nor value this fact and without opponents to test themselves against, the existence of the club is under great threat. But the flame still burns and for now, at least, TDC FC remain the most remote football team on the planet.