Teams of locals and expatriates representing their native countries will square off this weekend in the opening round of Blacktip Island’s Island Cup football tournament.
“It’s the World Cup in miniature,” Island Cup organizer Frank Maples said. “We’ve teams representing every nationality on the island at present.”
As ever, the Tiperon Islands squad is the prohibitive favorite, followed closely by England and Côte d’Ivoire. In the most intriguing first-round matchup, the Tiperons will face Montenegro in a repeat of last tourney’s semi-final match.
“Montenegrins play dirty, now” Tiperon captain Antonio Fletcher said. “Always have. There’ll be blood on the pitch after that one. But we’re ready for them.”
England, too, has drawn a tough first-round match against dark-horse Tonga.
“On paper, we should have an easy enough match,” England captain Lee Helm said. “We have 20 or so divemasters and barmen to draw from, and there’s only one Tongan on island.
“He’s a feisty git, though. And fast. He made it to the quarterfinals last year. And he doesn’t drink, so that gives him an edge. Sobriety’s a performance-enhancing drug on this island.”
As ever, the United States team is expected to make an early exit.
“They forfeited their first-round match last tournament when they failed to show,” Frank Maples said.
This year, the American side is still nonplussed.
“World Cup? Whatever.” Team USA midfielder Joey Pompano said. “What kind of game lets you end in a tie? Call us when the World Series starts. Or when you’re ready to play real football.”
All matches will be at Tiperon Airways Memorial Stadium.
“‘Stadium’ is strong,” Maples said. “It’s one end of the grass landing strip, really. We schedule matches between the airline’s landings and take offs.”
Organizers hope to avoid the violence of last tourney’s final between Tiperon and Honduras, when fans raged down the island’s street trampling shrubbery, scuffing storm shutters and burning three bicycles.
“Problem was the officiating,” Antonio Fletcher said. “Not to point fingers, you know, but a lot of conch changed hands before that match.”
“We’ve asked the island constabulary to officiate the matches this year,” Maples said. “We’ll also be serving complimentary beer at Diddley’s Landing, making sure the crowd’s there. There’s nothing for them to destroy on a cement pier. And if matters get out of hand, we can simply push the rowdies into the sea.”