Home » Robinson Crusoe in football fever: A cup game in the middle of nowhere

Robinson Crusoe in football fever: A cup game in the middle of nowhere

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Robinson Crusoe in football fever: A cup game in the middle of nowhere

When Jorge Garces lets his gaze wander over the lonely Pacific island of Robinson Crusoe, he goes into raptures. “God himself called me here and I thank him for that,” says Chile’s former national coach. The 69-year-old has been living on the remote island for two months in order to form a football team from 1,200 residents. Because on Saturday the Chilean cup competition starts right here – in the middle of nowhere.

The small volcanic island 670 kilometers west of the mainland has already experienced a lot. The adventures of its namesake, of course, whose historical role model Alexander Selkirk lived here in complete solitude for four years. In 2010 there was a devastating tsunami, and a year later there was a plane crash in which a TV star died. Quite a lot for an island in the middle of nowhere.

And now also this: At the invitation of the association, Robinson Crusoe is allowed to take part in the cup for the first time together with the uninhabited Alejandro Selkirk Island as “Archipielago Juan Fernandez”. The game against the Santiago Wanderers is on the village square in the main town of San Juan Bautista. The three-time champion has to travel 34 hours by ship – each way. If you look closely, the island’s airport is a black strip of tar on rust-red volcanic earth.

Fisherman in the morning, footballer in the evening

Only small aircraft can land there. Because 150 people are expected from the mainland, including association representatives and journalists, the Chilean Navy is taking over the transport; the frigate Aquiles is arriving on Thursday. “Everyone in the archipelago is looking forward to the historic game,” says Garces, who led the opponents from Valparaiso to their last championship to date in 2001.

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Now he is preparing the islanders for their first professional game on Robinson Crusoe. “There are four or five teams playing in a local championship,” says the experienced coach: “Seven or eight of the boys are very interesting. Unfortunately, many go fishing every morning at 5 a.m..” One of the island’s main sources of income is the large lobsters, which fetch top prices in restaurants on the mainland.

Center forward Pedro Caldereni is one of those players who is a fisherman in the morning and a footballer in the evening. “But we also have officials and students on the team. They are amateurs who work like professionals,” says Garces, who has long felt at home on Robinson Crusoe.

“I know friends who came here and didn’t want to leave because it was so beautiful,” says the coach. His own contract, however, ends on Saturday with the final whistle. But who knows, maybe he’ll stay a little longer. It doesn’t have to be four years.

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