CONIFA World Cup

CONIFA & The 2018 World Cup (London) 

As the Football League season draws to a close over the next month most football fans in the UK will start to focus on this summers FIFA World Cup taking place in Russia. But just how many of those fans will be aware that we have a football World Cup taking place in London this summer.

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Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) is an organisation that was set-up to provide countries, sub-national entities, stateless people and ethnic minorities the chance to play international football. CONIFA was founded on the 7th June 2013 and is a football federation for all associations outside FIFA, it’s a non-profit organization that supports representatives of international football teams.

As some of the members are not able to play in their own country or indeed don’t have the facilities to host the competition, the CONIFA organising committee can choose a host but then also make a decision as to where the competition will be held.  This is the case for this summer’s competition with Barawa being named the hosts and London staging the event.

The CONIFA World Cup will run from the 31st May until the 9th June 2018, were there will be sixteen teams taking part in the competition in four groups. There will be forty matches in the competition which will be held at a number of non-league clubs in the London area.

GROUP 1 – Barawa, Ellan Vannin, Tamil Eelam, Cascadia
GROUP 2 – Abkhazia, Northern Cyprus, Felvidek, Tibet
GROUP 3 – Padania, Székely Land, Tuvalu, Matabeleland
GROUP 4 – Panjab, United Koreans in Japan, Western Armenia, Kabylia

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As Sascha Düerkop (CONIFA General Secretary) arrives in London this week to promote the World Cup, I asked him some questions about the governing body and this summer’s London World Cup.

INTERVIEW

What are the main difference’s between the governing bodies CONIFA & FIFA?

CONIFA is driven by the players and the supporters and they have all the power within the organization,while FIFA is more and more business-driven. That leads to a situation where FIFA is actually executing power on it’s members and Confederations, while we understand ourselves as a service team for our members. However, we are not strictly anti FIFA. We just would appreciate if they’d open up in all directions (membership, transparency, change, etc)

The governing body CONIFA was formed in 2013 how is it going to grow the game worldwide?

It’s going enormously well and in a breathtaking speed. We now have nearly fifty members from five continents and can proudly look back to four major international tournaments already. We’re also more and more taken serious by the media, supporters and institutions like the EU, OSCE or UN, which is fantastic. I now regularly hear “Oh yes, I’ve heard of that” when I introduce CONIFA to someone, which is enormous achievement after only five years and that happens in Russia, UK, Germany or Zimbabwe alike!

CONIFA is not just about football, its about bringing people and countries together whilst also breaking down barriers how do you plan to do this in a challenging world?

As you say, the world is challenging. But we’re happy to help people around the world to take that challenge. It’s always an uphill struggle, but we’re also getting more used to and more trained on many fields and were already able to help people without any documents to travel half the world, which makes us incredibly proud.

The 2018 CONIFA World Cup is being held in London, could you tell us about this summer’s competition and what the UK football fans should expect in terms of quality on show? 

This summers competition in London will bring together things that belong together, but are often seen as a contradiction together: non league football and international football! We’ll celebrate the many non leagues across London we work with, while providing a professional stage to the forgotten nations we work with. In terms of quality, the range is huge! Teams like Abkhazia or Northern Cyprus mostly field semi or full pros, including many players with Europe League experience, while others, like Barawa, will mostly field Sunday league footballers

In terms of this summer’s World Cup which teams and players should the UK football fans be looking out for (top teams & top players) and why you think they are the best?

The teams to watch out for in my opinion are Northern Cyprus, Western Armenia and Abkhazia on paper they having the stronger squads. But as previous tournaments have shown a lot of other factors play a huge role, such as making use of the whole squad, fitness, preparations and form.

However, I bet we will have a few surprise’s in the competition and I’m personally I think that Matabeleland and Szekely Land might surprise a few. The best individual players will come from Western Armenia & Abkhazia in fact Abkhazia has a player with more than 80 caps for Syria and a couple of Russian Premier League players, whilst Western Armenia will field at least 3 Armenian national team players.

The county of Yorkshire in the UK is now holding international football matches and have recently joined CONIFA, do you think Yorkshire will be a good addition to the CONIFA membership?

Yorkshire missed out on this World Cup but are already a proud member of CONIFA. It doesn’t really matter if I think it’s good or not, as such decisions are mostly taken by our current members, who unanimously voted for the inclusion of Yorkshire.  It’s a great team and fantastic people around it and we’re very pleased to have them on board.

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Why did the committee decide to hold this summer’s World Cup in London?

That was part of the sponsorship agreement with Paddy Power, as we lacked a host for the 2018 World Cup Paddy Power approached us to sponsor the competition, with the condition that we hold it in the UK or Ireland.  Having four teams based in and around London and given the massive non league scene in London, it just seemed perfect to come to London.

A large amount of money from FIFA and TV Rights goes to the professional clubs in the UK (Premier League & Football League) with the non-league clubs (Grassroots) struggling for revenue. As a number of players for the UK Based CONIFA teams are from the non-league clubs (Grassroots) how will the World Cup assist the players and clubs raise their profiles and revenue’s? 

For some of the countries and players just playing in the stadiums will promote them and their club. CONIFA is of course paying a rent to use all of the venues, which will of course contribute to their financial situation.  In addition to that we will celebrate each and every club and help them to get them known around the world.

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