Tuesday, 8 May 2012

San Marino 1 - Blackburn Rovers 0

Welcome to San Marino or, to give it its full title, The Most Serene Republic of San Marino.

The most serene person in San Marino must be the centre forward of their national football team, stood up front the whole game knowing that he's never going to get a kick. San Marino are officially the worst team in the whole world, right at the bottom of FIFA's rankings. Since their inception in 1986 it took fourteen years before they won a game. Fourteen years is bad. That's Graham Taylor bad. They do, however, hold two world records. The first is that they were on the receiving end of the largest thumping in national footballing history when Germany battered them 13-0. And what can the other record be? One more of humiliation perhaps? No, they scored the fastest ever goal - after only eight seconds - in World Cup competition in 1993. Against Liechtenstein perhaps? Or the Faroe Islands maybe? No, against England. One of our better days.

San Marino apparently has no natural level ground. None at all. If two Sanmarineses serenely want to play, say, a game of Subbuteo they have to take their felt pitch and little plastic fellas to Italy for want of a large enough flat surface. And I know that this is absolutely true and not something that I've just made up. I cycled up to the town of San Marino that sits atop a 750 metre hill in the middle of the country that is San Marino. And I didn't see a single person playing Subbuteo. It's bloody hilly!

As you might expect, the views are spectacular. From the top of San Marino I could see my mum and dad's house on the Isle of Man. OK, no, I couldn't. But I could see a mum and a dad, and a house, and a man. No one else was up there on a bike. This keeps happening to me - going over the Pyrenees both times, cycling up the rock of Gibraltar - why is that? Perhaps for biking up a huge hill I'd earned some mini-star appeal and that's why a Japanese girl wanted to take my photo. A little later a young Italian waved his camera towards me. Aw shucks! So I posed once again but then his impression changed to one that said, "C'mon, you dick, I want you to take a photo of me and my woman." Fair enough. But that must happen to Brad Pitt all the time.

Anyway, fearing the potentially poisonous Chinese black egg that was going to be my contingency plan should I have failed to find anything truly original to eat in San Marino I managed to assemble an entire meal. For main course I had a couple of piadinas, which I suspect are simply San Marino's answer to paninis and which I also suspect I should have cooked first. This was followed by genuine San Marino coffee yoghurt, which was pretty foul and certainly worse than that poo sausage. And this collection of goodies was flushed down the neck hole with Hell Beer. Now, knowing a little German I know why the beer is probably called Hell (although you wouldn't spell it exactly like that) but this is an Italian beer and so I reckon they've opted for that moniker just to annoy the Catholics.

I was expecting San Marino to be another Liechenstein, a boring, pointless historical relic that should long since have packed up and quit. But it wasn't. It was stunning. Go and see it!

To top the evening, I noticed that the campsite's internet room had a telly with a Sky controller. Could it be true? Y'see, Blackburn were playing Wigan tonight on Sky in the game of the season. If Blackburn didn't win then they were definitely relegated. And yes, even on Italian Sky, the Blackburn game was on. Except that it wasn't really because the players didn't seem to turn up, with only, from memory, a single attempt on target. And so to end a lovely day I watched Blackburn descend into the Championship.

Mmm...maybe San Marino aren't the worst team in the whole world after all.

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