The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) announced on Sunday that its next major tournament, the 2018 World Football Cup, will take place in London. The 16-team event will be held between Thursday 31 May and Saturday 9 June.
“We are thrilled to be taking CONIFA to England – the spiritual home of football,” said CONIFA President Per-Anders Blind. “The World Football Cup just gets bigger and bigger. After hosting our inaugural tournament in Sweden in 2014, we reached new heights in Abkhazia last year with an event that received media coverage on every inhabited continent. We are confident 2018 will be our best tournament yet, and London will be the perfect host.”
CONIFA is the international football confederation for teams not part of FIFA. Its members include states, partially-recognised states, regions, minority groups and sports-isolated territories. CONIFA is strictly politically neutral, and is run by volunteers.
The 2018 World Football Cup will bring together a diverse collection of CONIFA members from around the world. Participation was determined based on qualification games/tournaments, regional qualification spots and two wild cards.
“For the first time in our history, we will have a team representing each continent with CONIFA members: Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania,” said the organisation’s General Secretary Sascha Düerkop. “We are particularly proud that the 2018 World Football Cup will be such an international spectacle, and provide a platform for our members to showcase they cultures, histories and footballing ability.”
The qualified teams are as follows:
Barawa, a region of Somalia, qualified for the tournament as host – the Barawa Football Association is based in London and consists of Barawan diaspora. Tibet, whose Football Association (Tibet FA) has the honorary president of his Holiness the Dalai Lama, received a wildcard, as did Western Armenia.
Abkhazia qualified as reigning world champions after they beat Panjab in a thrilling penalty shoot-out finale at the 2016 World Football Cup. Padania qualified as European champions after winning the European Football Cup in Northern Cyprus earlier this year, while Tamil Eelam earned their spot by winning the Challenge Cup.
The participation of Kiribati will raise awareness about the existential threat climate change poses to their low-lying Pacific island homeland. CONIFA has been actively involved in football development in Kiribati since it joined as a member in May 2016.
The official draw for the 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup will take place in London later this year. The draw will also coincide with an announcement regarding the tournament’s major sponsor.