Across the Border: Football Clubs that play in Foreign Leagues

For our 200th post, FBTG has compiled a list of the 10 most fascinating Football clubs around the world that officially compete in the Football league of a separate sovereign nation. All vary in size, success, age and global recognition, but the single criterion that all fulfill is that they are outfits that continue to compete formally in another country at the time of writing.

FC Andorra

The story of FC Andorra is remarkably similar to that of club #8 on this list. A micro-nation nestled in the mountainous border lands between two of Europe’s major countries and protected by the inhospitable terrain that defines it, Andorra is a nation of only 77,000 people that logically speak a combination of French, Castilian-Spanish and Catalan. FC Andorra, the leading club of the microstate, play in the Primera Catalana. The heavy use of red and yellow in the club’s crest is a giveaway as to how the local population identify strongly with Catalan culture. Astonishingly, the tiny club defeated both FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol on route to winning the Copa Catalunya outright in 1994.

Berwick Rangers FC

Probably the “smallest” club on the list, humble Berwick Rangers FC is an English team playing in the Scottish Football League. The reason dates back to Berwick-Upon-Tweed’s very unusual status as an entity that was legally “of” the British Empire but not “part” of the British Empire. As such, royal declarations often cited Berwick among other British Overseas Territories. Despite its undisputed geographical location within England, this special status means that Berwick has never culturally been a part of England. Thus its Football club were admitted to the Scottish Football League instead of the English Football League system. A trip to Shielffield Park, pictured below, is on FBTG‘s “to-do” list.

Shielfield Park old photo

Cardiff City

The Bluejays turned red. Cardiff City’s very poor 2013 / 2014 season in the Premier League saw the club drop back into the Championship, where they have remained until finally achieving promotion back up last season. Cardiff City fans will be hoping that their current Premier League campaign is more successful than the previous one. Ongoing battles between fans and club owner Vincent Tan have left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth, but being the only non-English Football club to have ever won the Football Association Challenge Cup, Cardiff City deservedly takes its place on our list. Sorry Swansea….

Derry City

Derry City is undoubtedly the most controversial member on our list. Indeed, our use of the word “Derry” has the potential to cause offense to Ulstermen. Derry is located in the West of Northern Ireland yet play in the League of Ireland’s Premier Division (the only Northern Irish side to do so) after having originally competed in Northern Ireland Football League. While it may be a little bit sensationalist to describe the club as a “Catholic club”, many individuals who identify as Protestant in the country dislike the club’s ongoing participation in the Football League of the Republic of Ireland. Indeed, the Troubles made Derry City’s home ground inappropriate for hosting matches. The club begin to play its home fixtures in Coleraine, some 30 miles away from Derry. In 1985, Derry City decided to join the Republic’s Football league system instead. The rest, as they say, is history.

Derry City fc Ultras

DPMM FC

Of all clubs on our list, this is the only one to have competed in formal competitions of three separate countries. The Duli Pengiran Muda Mahkota Football Club (His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Brunei Football Club), sensibly often referred to by the abbreviation DPMM FC, competed in the national league of Brunei Darussalam until 2005, when it joined the Malaysian Football system, before joining the Singapore Premier League in 2009. Following FIFA’s decision to suspend the Football Association of Brunei Darussalam later in that season, DPMM FC returned to compete in the Singapore Premier League in 2012, winning the league outright. However, now the club is considering joining another foreign league, this time either in Thailand or Indonesia, the former being a stronger league but the latter being of a country to which Brunei has stronger cultural ties.

Montreal Impact

Montreal is the largest Canadian city where the majority of the population continue to speak French as a first language, meaning that this franchise is often known by its fans as Impact de Montréal. The MLS side contest the 401 Derby with their English-speaking counterparts of Toronto FC, the roots of which come from the longstanding rivalry that exists between the two largest cities in Canada. Interestingly the fans of Impact keep an enormous bell that weighs an astonishing 715kg in the home end that is rung whenever the team scores. The bell, affectionately referred to as “The North Star”, has been rung by several playing members of Montreal Impact and also by the Major of Montreal himself.

Montreal Impact North Star bell
Original photo by Hakimsheriff.

AS Monaco

One of Ligue 1’s big clubs in the past decade, it could be argued that AS Monaco have dazzled more against notable Champions’ League opposition more than they have in respective domestic competition in the past couple years. The principality is far better known for its Grand Prix, casinos and general opulence; three associations that probably contribute to the fact that very few people recognise Monaco as a legitimate Footballing city, especially when compared to Marseilles, Lyon and St Etienne. The recent appointment of Thierry Henry as head coach however may bring the spotlight back onto the Monégasque club. Let’s see how things progress.

FC Vaduz

The capital of Liechtenstein, Vaduz is a stereotypically picturesque mountain city with cobbled streets splashed over slopes leading up to medieval castle walls frequented by locals speaking in dialects consisting of impenetrable vowels and rolling Rs. Crammed between Austria and Switzerland, this micro-nation is known for its alpine culture, its strikingly similar national anthem to that of the United Kingdom and its mobster-esque black-coloured car number plates. As the country is too small to realistically support a full professional Football league, FC Vaduz, along with many other smaller Liechtensteiner Football clubs, ply their trade in the Swiss Football league.

Liechtenstein Football club
Original photo by SuperAle.

Vancouver Whitecaps

The second Canadian team that compete in the MLS on our list, the Whitecaps warrant their place in our top ten thanks to the curious relationship they share with the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders. “Cascadia Cup” matches between the three teams always give the leading supporter groups (the Timbers Army of the Portland Timbers, the Emerald City Supporters of the Seattle Sounders and the Southsiders of the Vancouver Whitecaps) a chance to create elaborate and colourful choreographies. But this intense rivalry that traverses the US-Canadian border is indicative of the “Cascadia” culture and mindset that exist in this part of the world; French Canadians are effectively more foreign to people from Vancouver than their fellow Cascadia citizens South of the border in Washington and Oregon.

Whitecaps Southsiders tifo
Original photo by Matt Boulton.

Wellington Phoenix

The Hyundai A-League doesn’t feature exclusively Australian teams. Wellington Phoenix FC of the New Zealand capital are an ever-present thorn in the side of the Australian table-toppers. But the Phoenix have struggled to make a real on-pitch impact for some time now in the A-League. Replica kits in the striking black and yellow design of the Phoenix are commonly seen throughout New Zealand, from Auckland right the way down to Invercargill, as many Kiwis use Wellington Phoenix as a proxy for their pride in their country in the face of their Australian neighbours.

Wellington Football clubs

If you disagree with our “Top 10” selection, let us know in comments below. For a more comprehensive list of all Football clubs that have formally competed in a foreign national league (past and present), click here.

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