Sport in San Marino
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The San Marino Championship, founded under the auspices of the FSGC (San Marino Football Federation), is the premier footballing competition in San Marino. The fifteen teams that take part in the competition are split into two groups of eight and seven teams. The top three from each section at the end of the regular season progress into a semi-knockout style Championship Playoff. Prior to 2007, the playoff champion earned a spot in the preliminary rounds of the UEFA Cup. In 2007, UEFA granted San Marino a spot in the 1st Qualifying Round of the Champions League. 2007 league champions S.S. Murata was the first team to represent San Marino in the Champions League when they participated in the 2007-08 competition, losing to Finland's Tampere team. San Marino also has a representative in the Italian system, with San Marino Calcio playing in the third tier of Italian football, Serie C2/B. San Marino play their home matches in the Sanmarinese at the Stadio Olimpico of Serravalle.
The San Marino national team played its first unofficial international match in 1986, in which it suffered a 0-1 defeat to the Canadian Olympic team. Its first competitive outing was on November 14, 1990, a 0-4 loss against Switzerland in the European Championship qualifier. These defeats set the tone for most of the following outings of the team, who are regarded as whipping boys in the qualifying sections of the European Championship and the World Cup, calling into question the merits of San Marino and the other 'microstate' teams (Andorra, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg and Malta) being included in the main qualifying groups for said tournaments.
They had a brief moment of glory when they faced England in a World Cup qualifier on November 17, 1993 and took the lead through Davide Gualtieri after just 8.3 seconds - still the fastest goal in World Cup competition. Despite this goal, only San Marino's third at international level, the microstate went on to lose 7-1.
Until recently, San Marino's international record was one of almost total failure, with famous draws against Turkey and Latvia being the only partial successes in an international career that contains over 70 defeats. However, on 29 April 2004, San Marino recorded their first ever win, with a 1-0 victory over Liechtenstein in an international friendly. Andy Selva scored the only goal in a close game that finally gave this tiny republic a footballing victory.
On September 6, 2006, San Marino suffered their biggest ever defeat, losing 13-0 to world giants Germany in the Stadio Olimpico. It was also the largest goal margin defeat in European Championship Qualifying history. In the same competition on February 7, 2007, they came within 8 seconds of the best result in their history. They were level at 1-1 with the Republic of Ireland after 94 minutes when Stephen Ireland scored within 8 seconds of the final whistle. The goal scored by San Marino was their European Qualifying first goal since losing 4-1 to Austria in 1998.
As of October 2012, San Marino is 207th in the FIFA world rankings - jointly last with two other teams with 0 ranking points.
Although named after the Republic, the San Marino Grand Prix of Formula One was actually held at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in the Italian town of Imola, about 100 km northwest of San Marino, along the Via Emilia. It wass removed from the sport's calendar in 2007 due to no negotiations to renew the contract with the event organizers. This Grand Prix became etched in infamy after two fatal accidents occurred in 1994, when rookie Roland Ratzenberger and three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna were killed while competing.
San Marino motorcycle Grand Prix has been held during the years in Imola, Misano and Mugello. Currently, Misano hosts both the Grand Prix and the World Superbike Race. Sammarinese Manuel Poggiali won two World Championship titles: 125cc in 2001 and 250cc in 2003. Alex de Angelis has won one 250cc race and is currently riding in the Moto2 class.
San Marino has a rather successful professional baseball team, T & A San Marino, which play in the top division of Italian professional baseball, the Serie A1. It has participated in the European Cup tournament for the top European professional baseball teams several times, hosting the event in 1996, 2000 and 2004, and scheduled to host in 2007. It won the championship in 2006 and 2008.
San Marino also have a vibrant basketball scene. San Marino Basketball Federation (Italian: Federazione Sammarinese Pallacanestro) is the governing body of basketball in San Marino. It was founded in 1968. It organizes the internal league and runs the San Marino national basketball team. There is also an annual international basketball tournament held every summer called San Marino Basketball Cup.
San Marino Volleyball Federation or FSPAV (Italian: Federazione Sammarinese Pallavolo) is the governing body of volleyball and beach volleyball in San Marino. It was formed in 1980. It organizes the internal league and runs the San Marino national volleyball team.
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