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“These campaigns are fundamental to creating engagement with the community of San Marino.


I am and always will be a footballing romantic. It is my firm belief that football was built by the people for the people. In this day and age, we seem to be getting further and further away from those ideals.

Everything that makes football great, seems to be vanishing in a haze of corporate greed and controversy.

Money is King and the gap between the elite and everybody else has never been bigger. it is now very much a corporate industry and I think the normal person on the street has been forgotten.

Teams are being bought up by money-hungry millionaires and being used as their own personal toys.

Todd Boehly’s purchase of Chelsea and his out-of-control spending represents something sad in football. Then there is the controversial ownership of Newcastle United, the financial might of PSG, and Manchester City, and talk of European Super Leagues and World Cups every two years. It doesn’t sit well with me.

I have sometimes become slightly depressed by the thought of the modern game. Maybe it’s an age thing.

Perhaps I’m just becoming cynical. However, amongst this doom-mongering, there was a story late last year that gave me hope and restored my faith that football is still a game for the people.

It reassured me that a sense of community still exists and I think it was one of the most heartwarming initiatives I have seen in football for a long time.


Ahead of the festive season in 2022, The San Marino Football Federation (FSGC) launched a campaign to gift a baby-sized national team kit to every baby born in the country until the end of 2023. 

Perhaps as I grow older, I’m more of a sentimentalist, but for me, this is more of what football should be about.

San Marino football strip
Copyright of FSGC.

The association kicked off their initiative as winter approached, with the first baby-size shirts delivered ahead of Christmas.

This was seen by the FSGC as a symbolic act of communion in a Republic of only 34,000 inhabitants.  Along with the kit, the FSGC is also giving each newborn a small parchment with a symbolic message dedicated to the newborn and the family. The first kit was given to a baby girl on December 21, 2022.

‘The delivery is a small gesture that we want to give all newborns in San Marino,’ said FSGC Secretary General Luigi Zafferani.

‘Our shirt is a symbol of the Republic and of the nation. In a special moment such as that of birth, the Federation does not want to be invasive but simply to give newborns a small souvenir. With the hope maybe one day, when they are older they will support the national team.’

San Marino football national team celebrating a goal.
The FSGC is working hard to create a brighter future for the National Team


Like so many in the UK, my first memory of San Marino as a footballing nation was watching them take on the might of England in the 1993 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Under Graham Taylor, England had endured a turgid run of form that saw them needing to beat San Marino by seven clear goals, whilst hoping Poland would also beat the Netherlands. This would see England qualify safely for USA94.

Just a few years earlier, England had stood on the edge of greatness as they took on West Germany for a place in the 1990 World Cup Final, only to be denied by the cruel mistress that is penalty kicks. Surely, one night in Bologna against San Marino wouldn’t end in heartbreak?

England were naturally confident of dispatching their opponents and scoring the required seven goals. San Marino, after all, had already conceded 39 goals in their first nine qualifying games.

As the game kicked off, I’ll never forget what happened next. There In the Stadio Renato Dall’ Ara in Bologna, San Marino darted forward, looking to create an opening.

They progressed delicately upfield where they were met by the imposing figure of Stuart Pearce, who dispossessed the attack. The ever-dependable defender proceeded to nonchalantly slide the ball back towards David Seaman.

It was then one of the greatest plot twists in football took place. It was a moment England hadn’t counted on, but it was a moment Davide Gualtieri had spent his life dreaming about. Appearing from nowhere, he pickpocketed and stole England’s hopes, as he gloriously poked the ball past the advancing Seamen.

History had been made. The camera panned to a team featuring the likes of, Shearer, Ince, Platt and Gascoigne. Each one of them pale with horror. It took until the 21st minute for England to score before they went on to win 7-1. But it was all in vain.

The moment of brilliance from Gualtieri ensured that England would not be going to USA 94 and one of the most incredible nights in the history of San Marino was born.

San Marino football player celebrating a goal again England
Davide Gualtieri celebrates creating history against England


It remains a true David and Goliath moment. A moment that will forever live with everybody who witnessed it. It remains to this day one of the greatest achievements in their history.

I was seduced by the idyllic romanticism of San Marino. Today they are statistically the lowest-ranked national team in world football. They have their detractors. But for me, San Marino represents what football should be about. Hopes and dreams.

International football for them is the opportunity of a lifetime. It is a chance for them to rub shoulders against the cream of football. Why should they be denied the right to compete against the best?

Footballing snobs may disagree with their involvement, fearing that it harms the competitive nature of football. Do me a favour. Each player that takes the field, regardless of their current stature grew up with the same dream. To play football and compete at the highest possible level. They have earned the right to do so.

England playing against San Marino
San Marino taking on the might of England

When I first read about the FSGC campaign, thoughts of that evening in Bologna came flooding back to me.

I truly believe that initiatives like this show that the FSGC is working tirelessly to create a community and build a family.

It was with pleasure that The Atlantic Dispatch caught up with Andrea Zoppis the Deputy Licensing Manager at FSGC to discuss the campaign, and what the future holds for football in San Marino.


We don’t want to occupy the special moments of a family, but we want to leave one more memory in their mind.

the National Team is part of the culture in San Marino and an ambassador of the country in the world, so it is important that all “Sammarinesi” can feel part of it.

We hope that parents (and of course the babies) could appreciate this initiative and look at the San Marino FA as something close to the families.

These campaigns are fundamental in creating engagement with the community of San Marino and creating a larger involvement with our football and National Team.

In a little country like San Marino, it is crucial to attract all people, making football as accessible as possible in innovative and different ways. For this reason, we are running many campaigns targeting different people.

In September 2022 we launched a similar campaign for children that started with elementary schools, giving them a present of the National Team jersey and a ticket for the next National Team match. They are the future of San Marino, and our football and we hope this gives them something to remember.

San Marino football stadium

We also have in place a strategy for Football and Social Responsibility, published in September 2022. This strategy includes our aim to reach people and allow them to be part of football in San Marino.

We are also working with older people. We launched a particular programme of walking football to give people aged over 50 with Diabetes Type 2 the opportunity of safe physical activity.

We have also a collaboration with the Special Olympics and we organise activities with our specialised coaches during the year, involving people with mental disabilities to play football.

The accessibility is not only for players but also supporters. We have made our National Stadium accessible for all, with particular services for blind or deaf supporters, and supporters on wheelchairs.    


It is important to know this is a long process, but we have started with different initiatives to try to involve more people across San Marino with our National Team.

The National Team is an expression of San Marino in the world and an ambassador. We want people who watch the team to see the same values that they consider fundamental in San Marino.

Our dream is to see our National Stadium full of our supporters during home matches. These initiatives and campaigns are going in this direction, to create engagement and affection for our Team and our football.

In 2021 we have launched a new official strategy in our FA, with the Mission to protect and promote the values of the game in San Marino and to make our football accessible for all.

In this strategy, we fixed 5 main goals on different themes and the improvement of the level of our National Team, our clubs and women’s academy.

We are working to improve the technical level and the professionalisation of coaches and responsibility. As well as the creation of new opportunities and experiences abroad for our players and offering more support within the managerial structure of our clubs.

The National Stadium of San Marino
The Stadio Olimpico. The National Stadium of San Marino


In San Marino, the people are not so attracted by our National Team and, the stadium is often quite empty if the opposition is not one of the biggest in Europe.

With a population of only 35,000 people, it is difficult to compete with National Teams with much bigger populations. In the last few years, we have started work to make our football and National Team more attractive and to improve the culture of sport for our people.

The long-term aim of our National Team, included in our Strategy, is to leave the last place in the FIFA rankings and to develop the Youth National Team.

For clubs, the objectives are to strengthen them on and off the pitch, providing structures and opportunities to improve their staff.

The image is also important and in the last few years, we have been working a lot to improve the visibility of The National Team and our clubs. We have looked to provide new commercial opportunities and create more engagement with people and supporters from San Marino and other countries.

I’m Italian and I have lived in San Marino for eight years, so I had the opportunity to see this country from an external point of view.

San Marino has almost the same opportunities as the biggest countries in terms of Sports, Schools, Healthcare, and Tourism, all concentrated in 61 square kilometres.

Each child and person could think that is feasible to reach the top in national sports and they have more stimulus to work for that. It is a little country with few inhabitants but with a wonderful landscape and historical centre.

The beautiful and historic San Marino
The beautiful and historic San Marino


As our chat with Andrea comes to an end, he mentions that San Marino is most definitely a place that people should visit. He’s not wrong. One of the oldest Republics in the world, having been established in the year 301 AD, it is a place with a long and fascinating history, and its well-preserved medieval fortresses, castles, and towers are a testament to this.

Perched atop a rocky promontory, San Marino commands breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and valleys, with the sparkling Adriatic Sea visible in the distance. It is a country with a beautiful and historic past and with football deep-rooted in its veins, it could have a beautiful future.

Thank you very much to the gentleman, Andrea Zoppis for his time.

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