Sao Tome and Principe: 4,300 days without football, still ranked above India
Despite the introduction of the glossy Indian Super League (ISL), India’s rank has fallen to 171 in the recently released FIFA Rankings. That being said, their downfall can be linked to the lack of activity in the international circuit.
Sao Tome and Principe are a tiny set of islands located near the western coast of Africa and has a population of roughly 192,000. The country doesn’t have a professional league or a domestic setup which goes beyond one division. A set of 12 teams play against each other every year without the influx of foreign players, yet it boasts a higher ranking than India – 170.
In 2012, the tiny country shot up to 115th in the rankings, after defeating highly rated Sierra Leone, who boasted of Internationals such as Kei Kamara and Julius Wobay.
How is this island nation ahead of India?
As pundits and fans of Indian football claim, lack of participation is an issue. This tiny island nation however epitomizes international footballing inactivity. From 2004 to 2011, Sao Tome did not participate in a single official game.
Despite the hiatus, they jumped back on the football bandwagon with style. They went onto defeat African football stalwarts – Congo, Lesotho and Sierra Leone, going four matches without losing.
The reason for this can be traced to their domestic league. Financial and infrastructural problems harmed their chances of going abroad and participating in tournaments, but a strong league saw their footballers playing matches throughout the year.
Corruption has also been a massive problem for the country. FIFA accused the national FA of laundering money from their Goal project, this saw the island nation play only 13 times since the turn of the turn of the millennium.
Their return from international obscurity wasn’t the fairy tale that you would think of. Despite defeating Congo in the later stages of the World Cup qualifiers, they were hammered 5-0 by them in their first game.
Thanks to FIFA’s intervention, the sport is growing in the country. The rise of Sao Tome is a definite indicator that India cannot be using inactivity or infrastructure as an excuse for their continued slump in rankings.