There are two football teams on the Isles of Scilly, 30 miles off the south-west coast of England – Garrison Gunners and Woolpack Wanderers, and yes – they do play each other every week.
The two teams play in The Isles of Scilly Football League, which is the world’s smallest football league.
They meet 18 times in the island’s league, once in the ‘final’ of the Wholesalers Cup and they play each other over two legs to decide the winner of the Foredeck Cup. There is also a Charity Shield played as a curtain-raiser to each new season, and an “Old Men versus the Youngsters” match on Boxing Day.. The games take place throughout the autumn and winter, and then they go ‘on tour’ in West Cornwall in the Spring.
The teams share one ground, Garrison Field, on the island of St. Mary’s, and play on the same pitch at the same time every Sunday morning.
There did use to be an inter-island league, but it ceased to exist in the early 1980s. The repetitive nature of the fixture doesn’t seem to bother any of those involved, including regular referee Paul Charnock.
“These lads have the Corinthian spirit. They just want to play football, pure and simple.”
To shake things up a bit and keep things fresh, the available players are assigned to one of the two teams at the start of the season, like playing footy in the park when you were a kid.
Woolpack Wanderers’ skipper, Anthony Gibbons, explained:
“It’s pretty much like school-yard rules. The players’ names are put down on a piece of paper, broken down by positions.
“We flip a coin and the two captains then take it in turns to pick their squad for the year.”
Andrew Hicks, who plays for the Gunners, said:
“I think it takes it back to the grass-roots of football. We want to organise a league, and we have enough players to make two teams. You have two teams, you have a league.”
Mike Green is one of a small number of loyal supporters who turn up every week to watch.
“We live together, work together and play football together. That’s how it should be,” he said.
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