- a very small country. One which deputes certain attributes of sovereignty to larger powers in exchange for political and economic protection despite its geographic or demographic constraints.
Under the 1993 constitution, Andorra is a new state but the co-princes from France (President) and Spain (Bishop of Urgell) continue as heads of state. This status sees Andorra retain its link with its historical traditions and reaffirms the balance of power that exists between France and Spain.
The head of government in Andorra retains executive power; and the parliament of the General Council and a Prime Minister run the nation from its capital – Andorra la Vella. The two co-princes from France and Spain serve coequally with limited powers which do not include a veto over government acts. They do though have some say on international relations and the critical economic contracts with France, Spain and the EU.
This main town, surrounded by mountains, nature and a seemingly year round freshness also serves as the home to most of the football teams who participate in the humble domestic competition. Andorra la Vella is the site of the HQ of the Football Federation (Federació Andorrana de Futbol) and the national teams which play in FIFA and UEFA competition.
Andorra has a highly-prosperous economy and thanks to the majority of the population – only about 25,000 are Andorrans – links with nearby Spain make life in the principality generally quite prosperous. In Andorra tourism accounts for about 80% of GDP with its economy thriving thanks to skiing, snowboarding and cycling.
The country’s banking sector enjoys partial tax-haven status and many of the main streets in the capital resemble the duty free area of a airport.
Like San Marino and Lichtenstein, Andorra is and remains a state that lives in relative isolation. The transport links are relatively weak thanks to a mountain top location and a humble bus station is more or less the main connection point to France and Spain. Although the large metropolis of Barcelona can be reached in a matter of hours by road the state remains relatively obscure and isolated.
Football in Andorra
Andorra has existed for some time outside of the mainstream of European history, and likewise until its admittance to UEFA and FIFA competitions in 1996 it existed with few sporting ties to any country other than France and Spain.
Developments in transport and online global communications have removed the country from total isolation and nearly all of the major footballing nations including England, Italy and France have visited the principality for football purposes.
With major constitutional change occurring in 1993 the Andorran Football Federation formed in 1994.
Before then domestic football was organised locally on amateur lines before it became more professionally organised thanks to emerging UEFA and FIFA income streams. The most successful domestic club – Fútbol Club Santa Coloma – was founded in 1986 and participates almost yearly in UEFA competition.
Santa Coloma played in the National Football Tournament (the former amateur league of Andorra) before becoming a founder member of the Primera League set up in 1995. The national team did not participate in major in qualification championships until it gained affiliation with the governing bodies of FIFA and UEFA in 1996.
The first match of the Andorran national team was played against Estonia in 1996 and resulted in a 6-1 loss. The Estadi Nacional stadium was built on the site of the former Camp d’Esports del M.I. Consell General where the Andorran team played that first ever fixture.
It took until 2019 for the national team to gain its first win which came against Moldova. Since then a number of victories have arrived against major footballing traditions including Albania, Belarus, Hungary and San Marino.
Professional football in Andorra is organised by the national federation and the teams participate in UEFA competition each season. The two professional leagues – the Primera and Segonda have a pyramid format of promotion and relegation with most of the players playing part time alongside full time career paths.
One exception to the relative amateur status of football in Andorra is FC Andorra.
Founded in 1942 the club are affiliated to the Catalan Football Federation and have long competed in the Spanish Leagues and in the Copa del Rey. The Andorran Flag is the inspiration behind the FC Andorran crest and the club colours are Blue, Yellow and Red.
Up until 1977 FC Andorra competed in the lower divisions of Spanish football until they were promoted to the Fourth Division. The 1979-1980 season saw FC Andorra finish at the top of the table and they were promoted to the Third Division (Segunda División B).
In the post Franco era of Spanish football, FC Andorra have faced multiple economic difficulties operationally but the birth of a new Andorra in the 1990’s has seen the club once again go on to be competitive.
In 2018 the club became a PLC and investment has been secured from private investors – the links to the local banking sector have brought in large sums while the influence of Gerard Pique has brought football industry insight to the club’s committees.
The present day club has been developed on strong professional lines with a membership scheme and the PLC backing working together. Alongside the strong Andorran local identity a new unique brand has emerged. This model has brought high quality Spanish club league football to the National Stadium of Andorra thanks to the exposure the Segunda Division has in the Spanish media.
During May 2022 FC Andorra were promoted to the Segunda Division – the second tier of Spanish football.
This brought Spanish domestic football to Andorra and the locals will now see the likes of Real Zaragoza, Albacete and Granada play football in this tiny micro-state.
You can see a full set of images from Andorra here > Andorra.