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Are there any countries that have never played football?

Are there any countries that have never played football? The simple answer to this is that yes there is, the more nuanced answer is what do you consider as played football and what do you count as a country?

For the what counts as a country, we actually very much have our own answer, which you can read about below, but as to what constitutes playing a match, that, much like what counts as an unrecognized country is a bit more complicated.

To read about counting countries click here.

The United Nations and FIFA

So, when it comes to counting countries and what constitutes a match there are at least two points of reference. Firstly there is the United Nations, which has 193 members, plus the Holy See and Taiwan. This is what some, but not us use to count countries.

Then you have FIFA which has 221 members. Yes you saw that right there are more members of FIFA than the UN. Now this might make you think that all UN members are in FIFA, but in fact they are not….

United Nations Members not in FIFA

In total there are 8 countries that are UN members, but not members of FIFA. Conversely this means that there are 32/34 non-UN FIFA members. Of the later this includes the home nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as places such as Hong Kong and the Cook Islands.

The 8 UN members not in FIFA are Monaco, Vatican City, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu. Yet while these nations are not members of FIFA, that does not mean that they have never played a match. Here’s their stories.

OFC Associate Members that have never played football in FIFA

This includes two countries namely Kiribati and Tuvalu both of whom have not only played many matches, but are to such an advanced level they are almost OFC members. This means that in theory at least both could and indeed should become members of FIFA.

Click the links to find more about Tuvalu and Kiribati.

The US colonies that have never played football in OFC

OK, not technically colonies, but in fact under the Compact of Free Association. These former US colonies are not that into football, but all have associations, have some kind of local scene and have played matches.

I personally know the heads of both Palau and the Marshall Islands, while Paul Watson was famously the spearhead of football in Micronesia.


Monaco are famously one of the best teams in France, BUT they do not present a national team that is in UEFA, or FIFA, but again this does not mean that they have never played a match.

In fact the “national team” are quite active and have competed in a number of non-FIFA matches. You can read more about them here.

The Holy See/Vatican City

“Not scared of crosses” am I rite????? OK joking aside the Vatican City are surely the one place you would expect to have never played a match, but again this is not the case. In fact n the year 2000, Pope John Paul II established a Vatican sports department with the aim of “reinvigorating the tradition (of sport) within the Christian community”.

This for all intents led to the formation of a Vatican City team which has largely consisted of police, other government employees and members of the Swiss Guard. Matches have included against Austrian journalists, as well as San Marino Amateurs. And the association not only recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, but there have even been talks about joining UEFA.

Are there any countries that have never played football? Nauru!

This merely leaves Nauru as the solitary state in the UN that have not only never played competitively, but have never even played any form of representative match. In fact the only record of any Nauru team ever playing seems to be just a rumor.

You can read about their history here.

That is though hopefully going to change with the formation of the new Nauru Soccer Federation, who have lofty goals of not just playing some games, but of one day even joining FIFA.

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