Seychelles’ football finds its roots in Europe
Former Seychellois footballers and football followers alike agree that Englishman Adrian Fisher was the key figure behind the development of football in Seychelles. His arrival in Seychelles in late 1969 or early 1970 brought a new vitality, strength and enthusiasm to the game.
It is said that football was introduced here by Europeans in the early 1930s. Even though there was no structured programme, football developed into a sport with a good fan base. Through the investment of businesses, football grew in popularity and matches were played at Gordon Square (now Freedom Square) in Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles found on the main island of Mahe. Many of those matches were between local sides and visiting naval ships.
In 1936, Dr J. T. Bradley sponsored the first cup – the Challenge Cup – and it brought the kind of vigour among players and teams. A league championship was then organised. Five teams registered for the league and a total of 20 matches were played. Most of the players didn’t have football boots and therefore played barefoot. Teams captains and coaches were required to form a committee to oversee the proper procedures and the running of annual competitions.
By 1955 there were nine participating teams and entrance for matches was free. But spectators donated voluntarily for the payment of referees and for the maintenance of the playing field.
Seychelles’ first national team
It is said that Adrian Fisher not only introduced new skills and techniques to Seychelles football in the 1970s, but that he also implemented the required 90 minutes of football for one game. Before Adrian Fisher’s arrival in Seychelles, games were played over 60 minutes (30 minutes each half). On April 12, 1970, the country’s first national team, coached by Adrian Fisher, travelled to Kenya to participate in a friendly tournament. It took the team two days to reach Kenya and playing for the first time on a full-size football pitch they drew 2-2 with Feisel and lost 1-2 to Mwengi in the Mombassa Stadium.
As for Robert Frichot, the Seychelles Football Federation (SFF) chairman at that time, he had this to say in the Seychelles Bulletin newspaper of April 20, 1970: “Without doubt, little Seychelles has impressed its big neighbour Kenya with its football”.
Since then, Seychelles has made little impact in the international arena, winning just nine of 59 games played, according to FIFA’s 2005 edition of the ALMANAC.
The country’s national team won the silver medal in the first Indian Ocean Islands Games (IOIG) in Reunion in 1979. In the second edition in Mauritius in 1985, they won the bronze medal and repeated the feat in Reunion in 1998 and in Mauritius in 2003.
In 1995, the Seychelles under-17 team won the gold medal of the Commission de la Jeunesse et des Sports de l’Océan Indien (CJSOI) football competition played in Madagascar.
The country’s first stadium – Stade Populaire – was built in the 1970s. The 5,000-seater Stade Populaire was renovated in 1992.
The much bigger 12,000-seater Stad Linite was constructed in 1992 to host football matches of the fourth edition of the IOIG which Seychelles organized in 1993.
The SFF became a member of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 1986.
The Seychelles national team have never qualified for the finals of the African Nations Cup. In fact, they made their debut in qualifiers in 1986, losing to Mauritius.
Under Yugoslav coach Vojo Gardasevic, the Seychelles team made their debut in the World Cup qualifiers in 2001. Philip Zialor got the equaliser for Seychelles in a 1-1 draw against Namibia at Stade Linite. In the preliminary round return leg match, Seychelles lost 0-3.
In their second attempt to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, Seychelles lost 0-4 at home to Zambia but played a 1-1 draw in the away match. Robert Suzette was the scorer of Seychelles’ goal in Lusaka.
Seychelles’ biggest win must have come against Zimbabwe in the African Nations Cup 2004 qualifiers.
The SFF is also a member of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA).
Creation of the SFF
The Seychelles Football Association was formed in 1941 to oversee the running of competitions. The SFA’s referees’ commission was formed in 1953 and qualified referees were given certificates. Ahthime Hoareau was Seychelles’ first qualified referee in 1953 and he served on the referees’ commission for 30 years.
The Seychelles Football Association became the Seychelles Football Federation in 1980.
Some of the SFF chairmen include: Gustave de Commarmond, Brother Austin, Philip Fock-Heng, Robert Frichot, Suketu Patel from 1980 to 1991 and from 1995 until XXX, and Finley Racombo from 1991 to 1994.
Seychelles in African club competitions
Seychelles’ first team to play in African club football competitions are St Louis. With players like Bernard Dorasamy, Paul Khan, Ange Dubignon and Vincent Dorasamy, St Louis held COSFAP to a goalless draw at Stad Popiler in the preliminary round of the former African Champions Cup in 1989.
Vincent Doarasmy scored with a free-kick in the return leg match in Madagascar to propel St Louis into the first round where they met Fire Brigade of Mauritius. They lost both ties on 1-0 score.
St Michel and Red Star have been the most successful team in African club competitions, reaching the second round of the African Champions League, African Cup Winners Cup and the CAF Cup.
In the African Champions League in 2001, St Michel eliminated AS Fortior of Madagascar 3-1 (0-0 away and 3-1 at home) in the preliminary round, defeated S Marsouins on away goals rule 4-4 (lost 2-3 away and won 2-1 at home) in the first round, before losing 0-6 (0-5 away and 0-1 at home) to A-Ahly of Egypt who went on to win the crown.
In the 2003 edition of the CAF Cup, St Michel eliminated DSA of Madagascar (0-0 at home and 1-0 away) to progress to the second round where they meet Green Buffaloes of Zambia, going out 2-6 (0-5 away and winning 2-1 at home).
In the African Cup Winners Cup in 2002, St Michel got a hat-trick from Philip Zialor in the return leg match at home as they defeated Zimbabwe’s Shabanie Mine 4-0.
In the second round, they lost 1-3 (0-1 away and 1-2 at home) to AS Vita of DR Congo.
In fact, Red Star were the first Seychelles team to reach the second round of an African Club competition.
In the African Cup Winners Cup in 1997, Red Star won by walk-over against Club Namakia of Madagascar and Maxaquene of Mozambique in the preliminary and first rounds.
In the second round, they lost 0-5 (0-2 at home and 0-3 away) to Ste Louisienne of Reunion.
Red Star are the Seychelles club to win by the highest margin in these competitions, beating Mauritius’ Savanne Sporting Club 4-0 at Stad Linite after having lost the African Confederations Cup preliminary round away fixture 0-2.
Philip Zialor is the only Seychellois to have netted a hat-trick in a club competition. The striker is also the highest scorer with 11 goals – 10 for St Michel and one for St Louis.
Seychelles’ League champions
In the 1960s, Ascot dominated Seychelles’ football. Rangers and Rovers took their turn to win trophies in the 1970s.
During the time of regionalization from 1982 to 1993, St Louis dominated club football in Seychelles, winning10 league titles and a number of cup competitions.
Since the re-introduction of clubs in 1995, St Michel have won the division one league title five times.
Seychelles’ League champions since 1995
1996: St Michel
1997: St Michel
1998: Red Star
1999: St Michel
2000: St Michel
2001: Red Star
2002: La Passe
2003: St Michel
2004: La Passe
2005: La Passe
2006: Anse Reunion
2007: Saint-Michel United
Reports say that women’s football was played in Seychelles for the first time in 1966. It is said that a team of 10 female players lost 1-2 to a men’s veteran team.
Women’s football in Seychelles is very well organised and the SFF runs competitions – league and different knockout tournaments – for the five teams registered with the federation.
The federation also employs a female sports coach, herself a player, to help develop women’s football in Seychelles.
Some of the most prominent teams are Olympia Coast, Dolphins and Ste Anne United.