Far from the glamour

Updated: January 9, 2018

But there is another world cup being held this year in soccer, ahead of the one which will have billions of viewers worldwide, strategically schedule in May and ending five days of the more known one. Don’t expect any top bookmakers to offer the possibility to place bets on this other one and you will not see any betting advice floating around even if some decided to include them in their sports book. The tournament will probably pass you buy without so much as a result being mentioned in the papers or on TV-networks.

ConIFA is an alternative association where stateless people, minorities and regions throughout the world unaffiliated with FIFA are granted membership and get to play their own world cup. The tournament will be held in London this year and is being hosted by the Barawa Football Association.

If you have never heard of Barawa, there is no need to feel stupid about it. Chances are not a single person you know or ever met knows about these stateless people either. It is a port town in the southern part of Somalia inhabited by Tunni and Bravanese demanding recognition as an indigenous people. They will participate in the ConIFA world cup for the first time.

Reigning champions Abkhazia will also participate, for the third consecutive time. They beat Panjab after penalties in the 2016 final on home turf where Northern Cyprus clinched third place after beating Padania 2-0.

Never heard of these either? Don’t worry, and we are not jesting here, these are not some nations from the world of Tintin.

The group stage draw for the 2018 ConIFA was concluded Jan 6 this year and looking at the names can raise some rather interesting questions. These are regions or people we never hear about on the news, yet their struggle for independence or recognition should not be neglected.

Group one: Barawa, Abkhazia, Panjab and Pandania. We have already explained where Barawa. Abkhazia is a republic by the Black Sea and partially recognized as a state. Panjab refers to the Punjabi diaspora in in UK and Pandania claims it represents eight northern regions in Italy.

Group two: Northern Cyprus is the Turkish part of Cyprus. Szekely Land is a part of Romania with a large Hungarian population, United Koreans of Japan is quite self explanatory and Ellan Vannin is the local name for Isle of Man.

Group three: Felvidek is in Slovakia and has a large Hungarian population, Tamil Eelam is a team representing the population on Sri Lanka seeking independence, Western Armenia is self explanatory as is Kiribati, which is an independent nation but since FIFA only allows nations with an own domestic league system to participate, Kiribati are not eligible to play under the FIFA umbrella.

Group four: Tibet is obviously the region occupied by China, Kabylie represent the people with same name who hail from the northern part of Algeria, Cascadia is a bioregion in North America and a particularly curious case where the Cascadian Independence Movement date back to the 19th century and Matabeleland is the western part of Zimbabwe and seek independence understandable not least after the 1980 genocide.

We didn’t know about that last bit either regarding the genocide, but that is why this alternative world cup is interesting. There are a lot of things to learn about those who struggle in the shadow of already independent nations.