CONIFA Visits Abkhazia and Meets South Ossetia: “A Historical Chance”

After the visit to Nagorno-Karabakh our delegation travelled to Abkhazia. In Sukhum our General Secretary gained the full support of the local Football Association and Government. Also the Minister of Sports of South Ossetia – who travelled 20 hours to meet us – expressed his enthusiasm to join CONIFA.

It was Juma Kwaralchelir, the coach of the National Team himself, who picked our delegation up at the border with Georgia. In Sukhum, the Capital, our General Secretary Sascha Düerkop was immediately introduced to Beslan F. Eshba, the Deputy Prime Minister. This was all possible due to Astamur Adleiba, the Manager of the National Team and President of Dynamo Sukhum, and Jemal Gubaz, the President of the FA. “For more than six months Astamur and Jemal have talked about CONIFA and the World Football Cup. I’m very happy that I can see you here in person now”, Eshba says. “We will do everything to get our players in good shape for Östersund. We have some very good players, Abkhazia has everything to be a member of FIFA. As they don’t want us to join, we are very happy that CONIFA gives us the opportunity.”

After the meeting with Mr Eshba our General Secretary was driven to the parliament. Valeri Bganba, the spokeperson of the Parliament, as well as his colleague-parliamentarians were very enthusiastic. “Sport is far less complex than politics”, Bganba declares. “We always had to play under the Russian flag, now we want to show the real Abkhazia. In that way CONIFA is a huge improvement for us. It’s a great sign of respect towards our people. I can assure you: everybody within the parliament will give CONIFA and the Abkhazia Football Federation the full support. If you want us to we will be ready to host games and tournaments. We have a stadium in each region of the country and are building a new one in the capital.”

Again the media attention was huge. Sascha got interviewed a few times by journalists from newspapers and television stations. He even made it to a talkshow on the national television. Thanks to Asatamur and Jemal our delegation got also invited for the Abkhazia Super Cup, between NartSukhum and Gagra. In the stadium we saw Sukhum winning after penalties. And who handed over the Cup and could give a speech in the stadium? Indeed, our General Secretary.

As well as in Nagorno-Karabakh our delegation saw a very enthusiastic and determined Football Association, driven by fanatical football fans, like Astamur, Jemal and Juma. “Thanks to football I could travel a lot, but there’s no country as beautiful as Abkhazia”, says Juma, the coach of the National Team, with a smile. “The next few months we will upgrade our stadiums and grounds. In the future we hope to welcome teams from all over the world. The World Cup in Ostersund? My team is ready. But of course the most important is the closing ceremony and the party afterwards (laughs). No, seriously. We have some good players, in the Russian League as well as in the Abkhazian. They are all talented, and they are very motivated to play on the World Football Cup. June normally is a vacation period for our players, but they will skip it without complaints to represent Abkhazia.”

Finally, we ourselves want to sincerely thank Sergey Zassejev, the minister of sports of South Ossetia, who travelled 20 hours to meet us in Abkhazia. His country will not take part in the World Football Cup, but we’re sure they will be a very strong member in the long run. “This is historical chance for South Ossetia”, Zassejev says. “At this moment there is not yet a national competition, we are establishing a new FA and have already talks with a new coach. Volleyball, wrestling, athletics,… South Ossetia produced a lot of champions in its history. Now we want to do the same in football. There’s a generation who only suffered from war. We want to pleasure them with the joy of sports. We’re fully convinced that football and CONIFA can make a big change for our country.”

CONIFA Visits Nagorno Karabakh: “For Us You Are a Peace Mission”

Last week a CONIFA delegation went on an official visit to Nagorno-Karabakh. Thanks to the local Football Association it became a more than an enjoyable trip. Our General Secretary, Sascha Düerkop, even got to meet the President. “We support everything that is good for our people and so we support CONIFA.”

A pleasant journey from the airport in Yerevan, through the Caucasus mountains, to Stepanakert, followed by a very warm welcome from Karen Vanyan, the general secretary of the Nagorno-Karabakh FA, and Armen Sargsyan. That’s how the first official CONIFA visit to this small but vivid country started. Karen and Armen hosted our delegation in the perfect hotel, brought us to the national stadium, guided us in the direction of the most interesting tourist locations and introduced us to a lot of important officials and politicians.

More than 40 players

In the national stadium – a comfortable place with 8000 seats – there was a first meeting with the National Coach: Mher Avanesyan (40). The former striker scored more than 100 goals in the Armenian League. Now he is very ambitious with the national team of Artsakh (an ancient name for Nagorno-Karabakh, often used by the locals). “I played myself for the Armenia national team, and when the Artsakh national team was established I was of course part of it. This national team is important for all of us. I have about 40 players in mind for the World Football Cup, and they all want to play for their country. Our biggest ambition: showing Artsakh. We want to get good results, but even more important is representing our people.”

Mister Samuel Karapetyan, the President of the Football Association, confirms the words of his coach. Karapetyan, who is also the President of the Union of Artsakh Freedom Fighters, said the following: “Everybody has to represent his own country. Football is the ideal way to do it. We regretfully had to spend some time on the battle field, now we want to show our nation on the football field too. We have not be recognised by the world, we’re very happy that we can be a part of CONIFA. We invite all members to come over and play here. We will improve our stadium and field. Our collaboration is an important step for the further development of football in Artsakh.”

Presidential support

The ambition of Nagorno-Karabakh within CONIFA became very clear in the way they welcomed us and even more by who welcomed us. Our General Secretary got interviewed by newspapers and television stations, and each time it was a struggle for him to be not too enthusiastic. His most used words: brilliant and fantastic. And he used the words even more after his meeting with… Mr Karen Mirzoyan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mr Bako Sahakyan, the President of the Republic of Artsakh. Yes, these Senior Politicians made time for our delegation.

“Because we are very interested in CONIFA”, declares Mr Mirzoyan. “International exchange is important, it gives us an opportunity to be a part of the world. I believe in the CONIFA concept, in the way you promote the Olympic idea – that football can bring peace to the world. For me you are a peace mission. I support everything that is good for our people, and so I support CONIFA. We shall do everything to make CONIFA and our collaboration a success.”

“You have our full support.” With them words the President of the Republic of Artsakh welcomed us. “We want to bring people together through football. And show the world that Nagorno-Karabakh is a well-developed, stable and welcoming country”, declares the President.“We hope one day we can organize a big tournament over here, and play a lot of games with the other teams. Our biggest wish is to connect with the rest of the world, and football is the right way to do it.”

The President ended our meeting with quite intelligent words: “But you cannot get results at the table. It’s not about words, it’s about acts.” And yes, that’s the way we think about it: let’s get ready for some action!