Filed: Wednesday, 1st July 2015
By: Preview Percy
It's time to pay our first visit of the season to the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered to see how much Preview Percy knows about Andorra. Not much as it happens...
Hang on a moment, I’ve only just nodded off after our last game and you wake me up for this?
Ok apparently we have qualified for the Thursday Night League by virtue of us coming top of the “Good Egg” league, a concept whose worth can be gauged by the fact that Liverpool, with one of the worst teams in history for diving, were also hovering around the top towards the end of the season. This has left us with a place in Europe, meaning that some of the meaningless early season matches against lesser opposition have been replaced by slightly more meaningful matches against lesser opposition.
So, after a draw that used three of my kind of brandy glasses and a bit of messing about with the fixture dates we find ourselves drawn at home against FC Lusitans of Andorra. Kick-off is 7:45pm and the rearranged fixture date means we miss the tube strike. Which is nice.
As far as I can recall from my O-Level Geography (note to kids - O Levels were sort of like GCSEs would be if you actually had to know stuff to get them) Andorra is a small bit of land parked between a Pyrenee or two that both France and Spain forgot to divvy up when they got round to drawing up the border all those years ago. It’s an odd little place which is co-ruled by two princes, one of whom is always whoever is president of France at the time and the other is whoever happens to be the Bishop of Urgell at the time.
As you’d expect then there’s a strong Franco-Spanish influence to the whole place. There is, however, a third major influence on the country in the form of England’s oldest ally. There is a sizeable part of the population with a Portuguese background which is a bit odd considering how far away it is. However, it is this influence that is relevant to our opponents in this first qualifying round. The club name is derived from Lusitania which is the ancient Roman name for the bit of the Iberian peninsula that contains Portugal. The kit is based on that of the Portuguese national side whilst the club crest contains elements of that used by the Portuguese FA.
So what do we know of our opponents? Well at this point I’d usually send out the work experience girl with an inappropriate number of rings through her lips to go and find stuff out but it being the close season she’s nowhere to be found so I’m doing the legwork myself. The first thing to note is the Andorran league is a little bit like the Welsh league insofar as the best team in the country (FC Andorra) actually plays in the Spanish football system in the same way as Swansea & Cardiff regularly hop across the Severn Bridge. So Lusitans can be thought of in the same breath as Airbus UK, Bala Town and of course the clumsily-monikered The New Saints, whose name derives from the fact that they didn’t want to change the initials when they removed the sponsor’s name from the official name of the club.
One of the things that is odd about football over there is that the stadia are all owned by the Andorran FA, who decide who is going to play where at the start of the season. Spurs would, I am sure, have complained about the illegal state aid this clearly represents but for the fact that a) Andorra isn’t part of the EU so they can do what they like; and b)Spurs are too occupied with counting the millions they have saved by getting Boris and Haringay to pay for all those tedious infrastructure improvements that usually accompany planning applications of the size of their new ground.
Lusitans play in the Andorran “Primera Divisio” which currently comprises 8 clubs. They stretch this out to a 20 match season by splitting the league in two after everyone has played everyone else home and away with the top four playing for the title and the bottom four playing to stay in the league. They were actually Champions in 2011/12 and 2012/13 but their European pedigree can be gauged by the fact that their inaugural so-called Champions League “run” consisted of a 9-1 defeat to the then Maltese champions Valetta. The pinnacle of their forays into European competition is probably the 2-2 first leg home draw against the Faroes outfit EB/Streymur in the Champions League in 2013. In fact they were 2-0 up in this match and missed the spot-kick that would have taken them 3-0 up. Sadly for the Andorrans (or, if you will, “Portuguese” to give them their nickname) they were unable to hold onto the lead and the Faroese added a 5-1 win to the first leg draw to send them out. Their 4th place finish in 2013/14 saw them fall outside the European qualifying places but their second place last term saw them qualify for this tie.
Their most famous player is probably, no, make that definitely, a chap by the name of Oscar Sonejee who is in his second spell with the club having played at a slightly higher level with the aforementioned FC Andorra, as well as for a number of other clubs within the Primera Divisio. He is the country’s most capped player, having broken the ton a couple of weeks ago in Andorra’s 1-0 defeat by Equatorial Guinea. Some may remember him getting into a bit of an argument with Wayne Rooney in a Euro qualifier a few years back. There again most won’t. The list of people who have gotten into an argument with Wayne Rooney is hardly an exclusive one after all. Sonerjee has cult hero status in Mumbai of all places, something that can be attributed to his Indian heritage.
They also boast a Sierra Leonean international in the form of Alfi Conteh-Lacalle. ACL (as probably nobody calls him given that the initials are reminiscent of a nasty ligament problem) is in fact a product of the Barcelona youth system having been born in the Catalonian capital. He was actually capped by the Spaniards at U19 Level before throwing his hat into the ring with Sierra Leone for whom he now has, er, one cap. Since exiting Barcelona, “Knee Injury” has hawked himself around the lower leagues of a number of countries including Spain, Greece and Hungary where Honved were the best known of his clubs to date.
After that I’ll admit I’m struggling. If this were an FA Cup match I’d no doubt take great delight in being able to let you know which one of the opposition was the postman that it is compulsory for all part–time squads to contain but background details on the players is a little thin on the ground if truth be told. Mr Sonarjee works in insurance when he’s not chasing a bag of leather about a patch of grass but that’s about it. Ok this isn’t very helpful but you try finding out stuff about a country whose main claim to fame is its duty-free status.
Us? It'll be an unusual team on the pitch. A mixture of one or two old lags plus a few youngsters to do the running about. We have of course said farewell to Mr Allardyce since the last woke me up to write one of these things. Many years ago I wrote something in these pages along the lines that I didn’t want him anywhere near the club. Now he’s gone I would say that he did a job in getting us up. I know it was through the playoffs but he was a little unlucky that season to see Reading come from nowhere, get outplayed every week and still win. Their current position shows what a blip that was. However, it was difficult to warm to the chap, especially as nothing ever seemed to be his fault. The time was right for him to go so thanks & goodbye it is.
So it’s hello to Slaven Bilic as our new boss. He has already made the right noises about the type of football he wants his teams to play so hopefully we’ll be a bit more pleasing to the eye over the next, well ten months at least. However, Biic will apparently be watching this one from the stands leaving Academy boss Terry Westley in charge dugout-wise.
I wouldn’t expect to see too many of our new signings on display meaning that we’ll have to wait for tougher opposition before we see Pedro Obiang and Dimitri Payet enter the fray. On the other hand it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Darren Randolph take a bow ‘twixt the sticks. The rest of the team has been reported as consisting of O’Brien, Burke, Page, Amalfitano, Jarvis, Poyet (not Payet), Oxford, Zarate and Sakho. Zarate’s presence suggests a clean slate approach, which will please those who believe that he wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip under the previous regime.
At this point its traditional to locate £2.50 from somewhere within the environs of the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered and place it on a prediction but frankly the odds offered by Winstone’s The Turf Accountant for a West Ham win were so ludicrous you’d have to be the Greek Government to bother placing a wager.
We’ll win of course and my main hopes are that a) we somehow manage to escape pre-season without a player coming down with the traditional serious injury; and b) the team manages to put on a bit of a show for the 35,000 supporters at home plus the 500 or so popping over there for the return leg.
Enjoy the game!
When last we met: You’re joking, right? Ok, since you ask we have never played them. Alright?
Danger Man: Oscar Sonejee – as an Insurance Clerk he’ll know all about danger. I expect.
Referees: 1st Leg: Vadims Diretorenko (Latvia) 2nd Leg TBA. At least Mike Riley won’t have been involved in his appointment.
Daft Fact Of The Week:: As mentioned, the neighbours have had a major influence on Andorran culture. For example, although Andorra declared war on Germany at the start of the First World War, the French influence meant that they didn’t actually join in with any of the fighting. Then the Spanish habit of having a mid-afternoon nap meant that they were nowhere to be seen when the Treaty Of Versailles got signed, an omission which meant that, technically, they remained at war with Germany until 1958. The position was rectified when, as part of the Europe- wide celebrations in honour of Ted Fenton’s side’s promotion to the top fight, all wars involving landlocked European principalities were cancelled.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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