The Global Game

Football scaling fresh peaks in Andorra

Beautiful mountain peaks in Andorra
  • The global game in Andorra
  • Spotlight on women’s and youth football
  • "It was almost like winning the World Cup!”

7 October 2020, Andorra 3-3 England

"It was a crazy game," said England coach Aidy Boothroyd after the final whistle. "My players are devastated after conceding those three goals."

Admittedly, this recent match was an U-21 European Championship qualifying fixture, but the Three Lions still had players of the calibre of Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea) and Curtis Jones (Liverpool) in their ranks.

Iker Alvarez of Andorra celebrates his team's third goal during the UEFA Euro U21 Qualifier between Andorra U21 and England U21 at Estadi Nacional 
© Getty Images

That football is and can be played all over the world has been amply demonstrated in our series ‘The Global Game’. Whether in the far north of Greenland, in the Himalayan mountains of Bhutan or on the myth-enshrouded Easter Island off the Chilean coast, football is everywhere. It is not necessarily played just with winning in mind, but more out of a love and enjoyment of the game itself.

The same can be said of Andorra. Skiing is usually the default sport for anyone born in the country, nestled in the heart of the European Pyrenees. Due to its rugged landscape, there is not much room for football pitches.

"We celebrate every win. Anything positive that happens to us is cause for celebration," said Ildefons Lima, Andorra’s captain and all-time record holder for both caps and goals, in an interview with FIFA.com.

There are only two official football pitches in what is the largest of Europe’s microstates. They stage all of the matches in the eight-team Primera Divisio, while the national side even occasionally play their games in neighbouring Spain.

Andorra by numbers

  • 468 square kilometres in size
  • 78,000 inhabitants
  • Founded on 8 September 1278
  • Geography: situated in the high Pyrenean valleys, with 65 mountain peaks reaching over 2,000 metres
  • Lowest point is 840 metres above sea level
Andorra

Football history at a glance

  • 1994 - The Andorran Football Federation (FAF) was founded
  • 1996 – Became UEFA and FIFA member
  • First competitive game on 5 September 1998, a 3-1 defeat in Armenia
  • Jesus Lucendo scored their first ever goal

In its approximately two decades of existence, the national team have won just seven games. They had to wait four years and 24 matches for the first of those, a 2-0 triumph over Belarus on 26 April 2000.

Since then, Lima and Co have celebrated six more victories, the most recent of which came last year in a EURO 2020 qualifier against Moldova. A win over Hungary in 2017 during 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying was particularly special. "It all came together and that’s the one I look back on most fondly," Lima said.

Andorra had ended a lengthy barren spell a few months earlier, defeating San Marino in a friendly to record their first win in 86 matches. "It was a liberating result for us," he recalled. And with good reason. No other FIFA member had ever suffered so many consecutive defeats as Andorra. "You’re full of joy, obviously, but it also makes you feel a little sad, because the team you’ve beaten experiences the same kinds of ups and downs that you do," Lima said.

That victory, Andorra’s fourth since becoming a FIFA member in 1996, stirred the team and another drought was ended shortly afterwards. A 0-0 draw in 2018 World Cup qualifying against Faroe Islands on 25 March was the country’s first point in an official match in 11-and-a-half years. "It was almost like winning the World Cup!” he said. “For us, these games are actually like mini-World Cup tournaments." And then came the icing on the cake with the win over Hungary.

Did you know?

  • Before the FAF was founded, football in Andorra was only played by amateurs who came together as friends and were supported by local businesses
  • Since 1948, FC Andorra are the only club to play in Spain’s lower divisions, and are currently in the Segunda Division B (third tier)
  • Oscar Sonejee was the first Andorran player to reach 100 caps. He retired from international duty in 2015 having made 106 appearances
  • Record national champions Santa Coloma caused a stir in July 2007 when they became the first team from Andorra to win a match in a UEFA club competition, beating Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-0 at home in the first qualifying round of the UEFA Cup

In August 1998 the national football academy (ENFAF) was established, with the aim of training future generations of players

Selección femenina de Andorra
© Others

Women's football in Andorra

When FAF president Victor Santos took office in 2013, he spoke of the importance of developing women’s football in Andorra and called for the creation of a senior women’s national team. "That will be one of our concrete objectives," he said. "We’re seeing increasing numbers of female players and we want to start testing ourselves on the international stage." Santos was also determined to improve the country’s football infrastructure and focus on youth football: "It’s essential, because there’s no future without our young people."

Santos kept his word and the first women’s national team was formed in 2014 as part of a development tournament organised by UEFA. Andorra started off with a 1-0 win over Gibraltar, with Alba Lopez scoring the only goal of the game. That was followed by the preliminary qualifying round for EURO 2017, a campaign that ended in three defeats.

In 2017 there were only 202 women registered as players with the FAF. Taking all age groups into account, there are 16 women’s teams in the principality – and the number is rising.

Kylian Mbappe of France battles for possession with Ildefons Lima of Andorra
© Getty Images

In a few days, the men’s national side will meet up for the last time in 2020 to prepare for a trio of fixtures. They face Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal on 11 November before finishing their UEFA Nations League campaign, in which they have so far registered two draws and two defeats, against Malta (14 November) and Latvia (17 November).

Perhaps the next historic victory is around the corner, and should Ronaldo also talk about a "crazy game" after the final whistle, then the worldwide attention on Andorra would undoubtedly be many times greater.

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