The Marshall Islands are not the first country you’d associate with football and for good reason – they’ve never had a football team. Situated about half-way between Hawaii and Australia, the Marshall Islands are a group of atolls and reefs in the Pacific Ocean. Famous for being the nuclear testing ground of the United States. The Marshalls gained some kind of independence in 1986 through the Compact of Free Association, which means the USA still acts like its big brother. So, what’s the crack with football over there, or as they call it – soccer?
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MARSHALL ISLANDS
The Marshall Islands have been ruled by many countries throughout the years including the Spanish, the Germans and the Japanese. The Marshalls were once a major battlefield during WW2. In 1944 the USA invaded the then-Japanese occupied colony and the Marshall Islands were subsequently added to the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, along with several other island groups including Palau and Micronesia.
During the war the U.S. used the Marshall Islands as a nuclear testing facility. In the space of around twelve years, the U.S. tested sixty-seven nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, including Castle Bravo which still to this day is the largest nuclear test the U.S. has ever conducted. As a result, the Marshalls were declared the most contaminated place in the world by the Atomic Energy Commission at the time.
A famous landmark of the Marshall Islands is Bikini Atoll, but more specifically the huge Runit Dome – known locally as the Tomb! It’s essentially a huge 18-inch thick concrete dome built by the U.S to encapsulate all the leftover nuclear waste from the islands, including lethal amounts of plutonium! There have been reports that the dome has begun to crack in places, and the deterioration of the site could lead to a potential radioactive spill. It’s certainly causing Congress a massive headache!
Majuro is the capital ‘island’ of the Marshall Islands. That’s right, they have a capital island instead of a capital city! The population of the Marshall Islands is around 60,000 people and they conveniently still use the US dollar.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE FOOTY?
Well, there’s not much to report here to be honest. The Marshal Islands are the only country in the world to not have a single recorded game of football ever! Even the world’s smallest country of Vatican City has a 0-0 draw against Monaco on record. The Marshall Islands lack any FIFA or CONIFA affiliated team, as well as no official affiliation to the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC). Football isn’t even listed as a sport by the Marshall Islands National Olympic Committee.
As you would expect from any U.S influenced countries the interest in football is severely lacking, with basketball, baseball and volleyball leading the way as the most popular sorts on the Marshall Islands.
There are some unconfirmed reports that there used to be some kind of football league based on the island of Kwajalein, which is almost entirely made of the U.S army based on the island. The most successful team being a club called ‘Koober’, who apparently won this mysterious championship twice way back in 2000 and 2001.
Encouragingly in the last few years, a group led by a lawyer originally from the Solomon Islands is spearheading a campaign to put together a constitution for the newly formed Marshall Islands Football Federation, with the long-term goal of being accepted as a full member of OFC. But this is easier said than done, just ask Tuvalu!
Interestingly, The Marshall Islands Football Association recently reported that there might be a new club competition in Oceania involving nations that are not associated to FIFA. The new competition would be called the Pacific Islands Football Champions League. Eligible nations would include the likes of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, and of course the Marshall Islands themselves. So, watch this space!
Hopefully we can see some football being played on the islands soon, because we’re itching to organise tours to watch the likes of Tuvalu, Nauru and the Marshall Islands battle it out to be crowned the king of Pacific football!