Sometimes working on new posts can be a difficult process. Selecting a subject to post about is difficult enough, but a million other thoughts run through my mind too. Do I need to be writing about what everyone else is writing about? I really should quit only writing about Tottenham. Will anyone actually care about this subject? So keeping on topic is often an infinitely harder task than one might assume. Soccer is splintered into so many different subcategories (clubs, countries, leagues, tactics, gear, etc.) that I often find myself starting a posting on a particular topic, and then finishing on another related topic. The Wikipedia-effect, if you will.
For example, I’ve been working on a piece entitled just around the corner (which you can now find here) for about three weeks now. The post was born out of a thread I saw on r/soccer, discussing the close proximity of some rival grounds around the world. It seemed like an interesting topic that would make for a readable post. However, I didn’t want to be a complete mooch and hijack the thread content, so I thought it better to unearth some examples of my own. But in that research, I started stumbling across stadiums that weren’t just several meters apart, but instead were several thousands of kilometers away from their nearest neighboring pitch.
(Oddly enough, this research also spawned a post that made an earlier appearance on the blog this summer, the sort-of internationals. I wasn’t lying when I said it’s tough for me to keep on task.)
And since I got steered off course and find this more interesting now, you get to hear about the lonely football stadiums first. Don’t worry: you’ll get those “too close for comfort” pitches in a future post. I’m sure you’re giddy with excitement.
To start this off, let me be clear in saying this is not a definitive list. I’m sure there will be some forlorn field somewhere in the middle of nowhere that my simple internet searching couldn’t unearth. While a majority of the pitches on this list will predictably come from island nations, there are a few mainland gems to consider too… and as difficult as it is to find island stadiums, there’s absolutely no way I could find all of the isolated continental ones too. So forgive me if I left off your favorite marooned ground off the list.
Francis Plain, Saint Helena Island
Found on the most isolated inhabited island in the world, the school-side 2,000 seat stadium is also the solitary pitch on the island. Trust me, I scoured the entire landmass on Google Maps looking for others. Located in the middle of the Southern Atlantic Ocean and currenlty lacking an airport, Saint Helena’s closest neighboring island is 810 miles away. While this helps to explain why the island was chosen to detain the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte, it also explains why it’s the only British Dependency to have never played an “international” match. That said, with the imminent development of an airport by the Crown, a movement has begun to establish a national team. I’m no betting man, but I’d put my money on this field becoming the home of that team — should it ever actually be formed.
Á Mølini, Faroe Islands
Though the Faroe Islands just won their first ever European tournament match a few weeks ago at the somewhat remote Svangaskarð Stadium — the home of B68 Toftir in a village of just 800 — there was another Faeroe Island stadium that caught my eye for being much, much more isolated. Á Mølini, the home of EB/Streymur, is a 1000 seat stadium on the extreme Northern edge of the main island near the tiny village, Eiði. The first time I saw a picture of this pitch, I actually thought it might be floating on the ocean water. In fact it’s so remote, Google couldn’t even compute directions from the capital city. That’s probably why when EB/Streymur drew Manchester City in the Europa League a few years ago, the game had to be played away from Á Mølini… presumably because nobody knew how to get there.
Nevado Sajama, Bolivia
Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly a pitch. But the top of South America’s second tallest mountain did serve as the sight of the highest altitude football match in history. And considering that two of the planned players for the match couldn’t even make it to the 21,463 foot summit due to altitude sickness, I’d say that this is easily one of the most isolated “fields” on the planet. It’s not known who won the game, nor do I think anyone really cares. All were just glad that nobody invited the Bolivian president to this match, as he probably would have given one of the scientists/players a kick in the frozen junk.
Lawson Tama Stadium, Solomon Islands
It was about time that we included a pitch from one of the far-flung island nations of the Oceania region. There are literally dozens of pitches that I could have included in this list, all of which are perfect examples of extremely remote fields. But I picked the home of the Solomon Islands National Team because of their fan’s propensity to pack the ground. Despite the fact that the “stadium” has no official capacity, quintuple-digit crowds are not unusual when either Los Bonitos or OFC Champions League matches are being hosted.
Ottmar Hitzfeld Gspon Arena, Switzerland
Though nowhere near the height of the pitch in Bolivia, the mini-pitch located in the Swiss Alps does hold the distinction as the highest elevated pitch in Europe at 6,587 feet. The town of Gspon, though only a (comparatively) short distance away from many of Switzerland’s major cities, is isolated in the fact that there aren’t any roads that leads to the village: you either have to hike up the side of the mountain, take a ski lift, or be flown in by helicopter. The stadium itself serves as the home of FC Gspon, and has also hosted the European Mountain Village championships. As recently as 2009, it wasn’t any more than a gravel pitch until it was renamed for Ottmar Hitzfeld. However, the German footballing legend had never even visited the hamlet before being flown in by helicopter for the dedication ceremony. (Want to see some more? Here are some shots from “around town”, as well as some more shots from a few matches in the “arena”.)
Galolhu Rasmee Dhandu, Maldives
Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean — about 250 miles from the mainland — the Maldives National Team makes its home in the capital city of Malé. Considering it’s one of only two kept, grass pitches in the island chain (though there are many others spread throughout the 26 atols that comprise the nation) every single match in the island’s top Dhivehi League is played in the Rasmee Dhandu stadium. Seating just over 10 thousand spectators, it’s one of the largest buildings in a country considered the smallest in Asia.
Stade d’Arlit, Niger
Niger is the 22nd largest country in the world and 6th largest in Africa, yet there are only five football stadiums in the entire country. Since a majority of the land-locked country is covered in desert, most of the country’s population and stadia can be found near its (relatively) lush Southwestern borders. However, there is a small uranium mining town in North-central Niger by the name of Arlit. A large French expatriate population works at the mines, and predictably, they’re going to need their football. Therefore the town’s 7000 “seat” Stade d’Arlit is the only footballing temple within a 900-mile radius. Home of the Niger Premier League side Akonkana FC, it’s so remote that I can’t even find a picture of the damn thing, and the only picture I could find that showed any football in Arlit is this.