British Virgin Islands: Martin Smith gets first international call-up aged 49

Martin Smith and his British Virgin Islands teammates
Martin Smith (centre in green shirt) has been an unused substitute for two internationals

How many people can say they got their first international call-up at the age of 49?

And of those - if there are any - how many can say they were spotted while playing a match on billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson's Caribbean holiday island of Mosquito?

Martin Smith, a plumber from Ipswich, is the only one.

After playing in that charity game, he was thrust into the British Virgin Islands (BVI) squad for their Concacaf Nations League qualifiers against Bonaire and the Turks and Caicos Islands last month in Anguilla.

Selected as reserve goalkeeper in those games he is yet to win a cap, but if he did it would make him the second-oldest international player in the world.

'I'm still pinching myself'

British Virgin Islands
British Virgin Islands are 207th in Fifa's world rankings, four places above San Marino, who lost 2-0 to Scotland last month

"I enjoyed playing but hadn't played for 15 or 20 years," Smith told BBC Sport.

"There were players there that played for the BVI national team and a week before this first game in Anguilla I had a call from the head coach.

"One of the English-based goalkeepers that flies in to play for the BVI had broken his shoulder and he asked if I would be interested in being back-up goalkeeper and maybe do a bit of coaching.

"It took me all of about 12 seconds to say yes," added Smith, who played at a decent standard of non-league football in his native Suffolk.

The British Virgin Islands is a British Overseas Territory, so people living there are classed as British citizens and anyone with a British passport is eligible to play for them - provided they meet residency requirements.

British Virgin Islands
A British Overseas territory, the Queen is head of state and represented by a Governor
The population of 31,719 elect a 13-member Legislative Council every four years
The 50 islands cover an area of 59 square miles (153 square km), with most people living on the main island of Tortola
BVI has been seen as a tax haven and accounts based there were uncovered during the Panama Papers leak in April 2016

Life away from the UK has always appealed to Smith - he worked as a holiday rep in places such as Tenerife and Majorca, and did ski seasons in France and the USA.

He moved to the Bahamas to work with his cousin five years ago, before getting a job a couple of years later as the plumbing supervisor on Branson's exclusive island where even former US president Barack Obama has spent time on holiday.

"I'm still pinching myself now that I was involved with an international football squad," he says.

"The week in Anguilla was an eye-opener. We were getting police escorts to the games, we had stands full of people, and I had friends back in the UK who were watching it being live streamed.

"It was quite bizarre when we played the Turks and Caicos because we sung our national anthem, God Save the Queen, then they sung theirs and it was God Save the Queen as well!"

Second only to George Weah?

George Weah
George Weah's final appearance for Liberia, aged 51, beat the previous record for the oldest international player held by Greece's Yorghos Koudas, who was 48 when he played his last game in 1995

If Smith were to play, only former World Player of the Year George Weah would be an older full international - he played against Nigeria last September aged 51 years and 345 days.

Smith said his first day's training with the BVI squad was an eye-opener as he chased men more than two decades his junior along the Caribbean sands.

"They say goalkeepers don't have to be fit, and that was a lucky thing because after I tried to keep up with these guys on the beach for the first day, the next day was quite a painful 24 hours for me," he joked.

But that has not stopped Smith eyeing up a chance to stay involved in some capacity when they face Bonaire and the Bahamas in Group C of the third tier of the Concacaf Nations League starting in September.

"They're very winnable games," he says.

"If the other young goalkeeper's shoulder is repaired I'll be seeing if they wouldn't mind me still being the international goalkeeper coach and be back-up."

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