Millions of fans are currently glued to television screens watching the giants of the football world battle it out for the FIFA World Cup. But just 2 weeks previous some of the worlds’ more obscure nations battled it out for the CONIFA World Football Cup in London.
The CONIFA (Confederation of Independent Football Associations) World Cup is an international tournament organised by CONIFA; a body established in 2013.
CONIFA is an umbrella football association for self-proclaimed nation states; de-facto states and bio-regions which are not affiliated to FIFA.
The tournament is held every two years with the 2018 tournament in London is the third edition of the event.
The current holders are Abkhazia, a territory on the eastern coast of the Black Sea just south of the Caucasus mountain range.
In contrast to the billions of dollars generated by the FIFA event in Russia, the CONIFA tournament is a non-profit tournament underpinned by the goodwill of fans and the support of sponsors. Teams travelled by coach from a host student village in London while at every game a host of volunteers ensured things ran smoothly.
Such support was needed since the 2018 event was the biggest yet. While the first two CONIFA tournaments featured only a few stadiums, the expansion of the tournament from 12 to 16 participant nations saw a significant expansion in the number of venues required.
Seven of the venues were located in London (including the home ground of Haringey Borough FC near Spurs newly renovated ground) while two grounds were in the towns of Slough and Bracknell in Berkshire. A final host venue was located in Thurrock, Essex.
Promoting itself on a model underpinned by the highest of ethical standards and a dedicated membership, participants like Tibet and Northern Cyprus brought colour and noise to the small grounds of the UK capital. Meanwhile, online streaming was available for those who wished to watch matches at home. Furthermore, sponsors like Paddy Power and Talksport served to create further interest in the tournament daily both via online betting and radio channel features.
Serving to generate awareness, create participation and healthy competition as well as enhance global knowledge, the tournament was eventually won by a late entrant. Prior to the tournament commencing organisers, CONIFA announced Felvidek had withdrawn and were being replaced by Karpatalya, a team representing the ethnic Hungarian minority in Ukraine.
Karpatalia defeated the much fancied Northern Cyprus 3-2 on penalties in a final held at Enfield.