FORGOTTEN COUNTRIES: HOW YANN KERMOGANT INTRODUCED ME TO A WORLD OF UNREGISTERED NATIONAL TEAMS
If you asked me; who's your favourite player? It wouldn’t take me a second to answer. It’s an easy decision. The man, the legend, Yann Kermogant.
Yann Kermogant was a striker that joined Charlton in their 101 point League One campaign. While getting fewer goals than his partner Bradley Wright-Phillips, he managed to become an icon to Charlton fans and was the first casualty of the infamous Duchatelet era.
Kermogant was one of them players who was also deceptively brilliant with his feet. The sort of player that looked to have too much muscle to be able to kick a ball effectively. But not only could he control the ball, but he could also whip in a decent free-kick. In fact he managed to score a freaky half-volley that managed to lob the keeper despite the shot coming from nearly behind the goal. He claims he meant it, if it was anyone else I wouldn’t believe them.
My man-crush aside, the most curious thing about Yann Kermogant was the national team he played for. While I maintain that he would’ve been good enough for the French national team, Yann instead played for Brittany, a national team that have played a total of five games this century. The last of which was a 1-0 win against Mali on 28th May 2013. The goal coming from, yes you guessed, Yann the Man.
It is a shame that Brittany hasn't played since, I am unsure of the reasons why, but it seems that they lack the authority and popularity that they deserved. As one of the Gaelic nations, they have tried to form various mini-leagues, mainly with other teams that share a Gaelic heritage.
While I may have only found about the national team of Brittany because of Mr. Kermogant, I have since been led down a Wikipedia rabbit hole to a world full of other nations that weren’t recognised by FIFA or ConIFA (FIFA’s international rival).
Some of these national teams are much more active than others. Catalan for example, has been playing friendlies regularly since the end of the Franco era in Spain. They even beat Venezuela last year and were famously managed by Johan Cruyff, the Catalan convert, from 2009 to 2013.
Some play much less frequently such as Vatican City, one of the only sovereign states that’s football team isn’t recognised by FIFA. With a population of roughly 900, it is not surprising that their history against other nations has not resulted in a single win.
The greatest thing I found however was actually an international football tournament. The Football at the Island Games. This biennial tournament consists of teams that represent most small islands in Northern Europe, like those of the coast of Britain and Scandinavia, as well as some other nearby Islands. It seems to be a hugely popular event for these Islands but is completely anonymous beyond their shores.
I imagine that the reason most of us don’t know about these teams and competitions is due to the fact they are fairly local affairs that are not necessarily cost-effective to televise, but now, with the rise of sports streaming, perhaps we will be able to enjoy these unique teams first hand.