Written by: Alun Macer-Wright
London is used to seeing plenty of St George’s flags during a World Cup summer, and there will be a few more in the capital this time around as Padania, who share the banner, come to town for the CONIFA World Football Cup.
The Padania Football Association was founded to represent the 8 northern regions of Italy, based around the Po Valley.
Despite being one of the odds-on favourites for the tournament, Padania are guarding against any complacency.
“We don’t think the gold is granted,” Padania’s media and commercial manager Marco Marramao said. “Every single team is getting stronger year after year and every single match will be a battle because everyone wants to be ‘the one who defeated Padania’.”
As seasoned non-FIFA campaigners and CONIFA’s 2nd ranked side, Padania’s favourites tag is no surprise. They have won both editions of the CONIFA European Football Cup to date, without losing a game, as well as a 4th place finish at the 2016 World Football Cup in Abkhazia. Prior to this, they won the VIVA World Cup three years in succession from 2008 to 2010.
The quality of player Padania are bringing to London is as formidable as their record. Their line-up is set to feature Marius Stankevičius, the experienced Lithuanian international who has played top-division football in Italy, Spain, Germany and Turkey.
“We have many other stars: Stefano Tignonsini, our captain, who has been with Padania since the beginning and Andrea Rota, the one with the most goals (7) who is still playing for Padania. But watch out for anyone, because they are very skilled players,” Marramao said.
The backbone of the team remains much the same as the side which was victorious in Northern Cyprus last year, so Marramao is confident that a lack of warm-up fixtures will not disadvantage the team.
The aura of London should be more than enough to motivate the team, he said. “London is such an inspiring place for playing football and it would be nice to win a World Cup where football itself began.”
Italy’s strong regional identities are perhaps not surprising when considering the variety of city states and duchies which made up its modern-day boundaries.
As Italy’s only representatives at a global football tournament this summer, Padania will hope to add to their already impressive CONIFA record with a World Football Cup title next month.