The tiny island of Anguilla, a territory of the United Kingdom, may be one of the first listed FIFA members alphabetically, but once again they are now the last listed in the ranking meritocracy. Having been absent for almost four years Anguilla are once again firmly ensconced as the official worst team in the world after Bhutan’s rise last month.
This will be Anguilla’s eighth spell as the worst in the world and will see the tiny island territory add to its currently tally of 48 months ranked at the bottom of the world.
‘It means nothing to me,’ said the Polish-born national team coach Richard Orlowski to FIFA.com recently – while his team were one place ahead of Bhutan. ‘We’ve had some bad luck in the past, there’s no denying. But now we play in the present. So whoever says that Anguilla don’t have a chance, I say to them: “This is football and anything can happen.”’
Anguilla, at the northern edge of the Leeward Islands, is considered a paradise of tropical beauty and seductive calm even among the rich pickings of the Caribbean. ‘It may be a small island, but these guys have the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen,’ Orlowski added referring to his team of amateurs, who combine international football with careers as construction workers, bankers, teachers and boat builders. ‘They leave work early to train and some even risk getting less pay. I feel so much pride when I see them come out on the pitch, how much they juggle in their lives.’
On four previous occasions Anguilla have spent a solitary month at the bottom of the world – in May 1997, February 1998, July 1998 and November 1988 – before a swift return for a two-month spell in early 1999 and a four month stint at the turn of the century. These were all under the old rankings calculations, and under those initial methods they remained clear of the basement for another six years before the current system was introduced in July 2006. They spent another single month at the bottom at that stage before another lengthy absence.
But come April 2008 Anguilla slumped to the bottom once more, and this time there would be no quick escape. For the next thirty-seven publications of the world rankings, Anguilla would remain rooted to the bottom, taking them up to May 2011. That was when their last significant result took them clear.
The points gained that day have gradually dwindled away, and even had Bhutan not risen from the bottom so spectacularly earlier this year, Anguilla would have joined them in last place once their remaining points vanished. That would have been by June this year. Their renewed status as worst in the world has therefore only been ushered in slightly ahead of schedule.
Looking ahead, Anguilla will obviously have no more World Cup action to look focus on. There will be the 2016 Caribbean Cup for which the qualifiers will hopefully see Anguilla back in action, but there are no dates set for those qualifiers as of yet. It’s possible that the opening qualifiers would take place later this year, but could be early next year instead. It is unlikely that we would see Anguilla in official action ahead of that tournament so it looks like a potentially barren few months for the WITW.