- Population: 94,000
- Capital: Mahón
- Languages: Catalan, Spanish
As you might have read in my other blogsite, Around The Football World, I am attempting to interview supporters or experts from every single FIFA nation (there’s over 200 of them!!) to ask them questions about the past, present and future of their respective male and female national teams. However I am also still interested in football what is happening in regions, islands and locations from around the world where they don’t have a FIFA representative team but still have their own unique footballing identity. Therefore this blog is the first of those kind of articles where I explore football in a more focused part of the world to find out more about it.
In my first such blog, I have decided to look at the Balearic Island of Menorca (also known as Minorca), the easternmost island of the Spanish island chain, situated in the western Mediterranean Sea. To help me find out more about Menorcan football, I asked a number of questions to the excellent Menorca Football. It is a superbly researched and written English-language website and Twitter account which focuses on football being played on the island, as well as promoting its clubs and footballing culture. To find out more about Menorca Football, please check out the links to their website and social media accounts below.
Q. Firstly, who would you say is the island’s best-ever player and manager of all-time, and the reasoning behind the choices?
Goalkeeper Joan Bagur Coll (known as Nito Bagur) is regarded as the island’s best ever player. He won the European Cup with Real Madrid in 1960, during a three-year spell at one of the world’s greatest teams alongside the legendary Alfredo di Stéfano, although he was mainly a back-up in their squad, playing just four games. He held the record of being the oldest player to make his debut for Real Madrid (31 years, 9 months and 13 days old), a record which lasted more than 40 years until it was broken by Fabio Cannavaro in 2006. Hailing from Ciutadella, Bagur signed his first professional contract with Real Sociedad and spent 12 years there as player, and also played for Real Santander. Only three goalkeepers have made more appearances for Sociedad. Bagur was called up by the Spanish national team, but never won a full cap.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of Menorcan football both in the past and present?
Spain international Vicente Engonga had a fine spell with Sporting Mahonés from 1986-1991, which grabbed the attention of Real Valladolid in La Liga. He moved on to Celta Vigo, Valencia and Real Mallorca, even having a spell in England with Coventry City. The midfielder won 14 caps for Spain between 1998 and 2000.
Q. Of the current players, who would you say is the best player playing on the Balearic island?
A difficult question, as no Menorcan clubs are currently playing in any national divisions. The likes of Guillem Marti, Ruben Carreras and Elliott Galan at CE Mercadal can probably stake a claim to being regarded as the best in the Menorcan league at present. Ramon Huescar at Alaior is a proven goalscorer too.
Q. How would you describe the current general state/performance of Menorcan football?
It’s currently in its second successive season without a representative in a national division (i.e. Tercera División). That will change as the island is guaranteed a promotion place at the end of the current season, which Mercadal are heavy favourites for. There is a 12-team domestic league [the Regional Preferente de Menorca] that is competitive; though some may question whether the problem for Menorca is that the talent is spread too thinly throughout the island. There’s also the fact that it’s difficult economically at the moment, particularly to attract import players to play in a domestic-only league.
Q. Are there any players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the island?
Xavi Sintes is currently at Real Madrid, playing for Real Madrid Castilla [Madrid’s reserve team] and winning the UEFA Youth Champions League. He is from Mahón and last year was called up to train with Zinedine Zidane’s first team. A defensive midfielder, he is rated as a superb ball winner and is good on the ball.
Q. Looking at Menorca’s football history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance in your opinion?
It’s very difficult to say as I simply don’t have the wide knowledge. Significant matches involve Menorcan clubs in the Copa del Rey – such as Sporting Mahonés playing Elche in 1990/91 and Atlètic Ciutadella playing Espanyol in 1982/83. UD Mahón would no doubt point to their tiebreaker match against RCD Mallorca in 1956 which crowned them Balearic champions. They won 2-1 after both sides had won 5-1 in their respective home legs.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the island’s lowest point?
Again hard to say, though it is noted in history about a fierce rival match between UD Mahón and CD Menorca back in 1925, which resulted in accusations that the referee had rigged the match. Two players attacked the referee and were imprisoned for their actions.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of Menorcan football?
It’s absolutely fantastic that there are 12 active teams in the Regional division, playing at different stadiums across the island. That said, it’s frustrating to not have any clubs in national divisions at present; and you do question whether the cities that have three teams each (Mahón and Ciutadella) would have more success if they tried to work together to progress (although that infamously went terribly wrong for Mahón in the 1970s).
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from Menorcan football?
Has to be UD Mahón – with their blue shirts with a thick yellow stripe down the middle.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of football on the Isle?
The ultimate dream, and motivation for my website, is to see a Menorcan club in the higher echelons of Spanish football – absolute dream is of course La Liga. But at present, just getting a couple of clubs out of the domestic competition and into the Tercera División would be a huge positive.
A big thank you to Menorca Football for answering my questions about football on the island. It’s fascinating to see such a footballing culture thriving, and hopefully we’ll see a Menorcan side in the national leagues sooner rather than later. It would be superb if one of them can match the achievements of Real Mallorca, from the neighbouring Balearic island of Mallorca, and potentially reach the Primera División of La Liga. Remember, you can find out more about football on the island by looking a Menorca Football’s excellent website or following them on Twitter, with the links at the top of the blogpost.