No Limits Mediterranean Futsal Cup: Official Tournament Brochure

The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) takes great pleasure in presenting today’s No Limits Mediterranean Futsal Cup, organised in partnership with CALCI: Comunità Resilienti

The six-team tournament, sponsored and supported by Schiermacher Outfitters and Precision as well as the Government of the Principality of Seborga, will take place in Sanremo, Italy.

Click below to access the official tournament brochure, featuring comment from CONIFA dignitaries and tournament organisers, an introduction to the competition, the competing teams and our partners, as well as a full schedule.

➡️ https://www.conifa.org/en/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/BROCHURE-SANREMO.pdf

No Limits Mediterranean Futsal Cup: Schedule Announcement

The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) are pleased to announce the schedule for the forthcoming 2021 No Limits Mediterranean Futsal Cup.

The six-team tournament, sponsored and supported by Schiermacher Outfitters and Precision as well as the Government of the Principality of Seborga, will take place in Sanremo, Italy on Saturday, September 11.

The tournament forms part of a socio-cultural exhibition that CALCI: Comunità Resilienti will hold in the area between September 9-12 in which the stories and shirts of teams from around the world will be exhibited, including that of those participating in the competition.

Teams – four from within CONIFA and, by special invitation, two from outside – have been divided into two groups of three in what will be the first futsal tournament for senior national teams in the alternative world to FIFA and the Fútbol Sala.

Group winners will progress into the final with both second place teams going on to compete for third and fourth place respectively. The teams finishing in third will, in turn, play-off for fifth and sixth places.

The tournament will be live streamed around the world thanks to WeSport, official media partners of the tournament, while extensive coverage will appear via CONIFA’s social media platforms.

CONIFA makes history with No Limits Mediterranean Futsal Cup

The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) takes great pleasure in announcing details of the 2021 No Limits Mediterranean Futsal Cup, organised in partnership with CALCI: Comunità Resilienti

The six-team tournament, sponsored and supported by Schiermacher Outfitters and Precision as well as the Government of the Principality of Seborga, will take place in Sanremo, Italy on Saturday, September 11. 

The tournament forms part of a socio-cultural exhibition that CALCI: Comunità Resilienti will hold in the area between September 9-12 in which the stories and shirts of teams from around the world will be exhibited, including that of those participating in the competition.

Teams – four from within CONIFA and, by special invitation, two from outside – have been divided into two groups of three in what will be the first futsal tournament for senior national teams in the alternative world to FIFA and the Fútbol Sala. 

 

 

Group winners will progress into the final with both second place teams going on to compete for third and fourth place respectively. The teams finishing in third will, in turn, play-off for fifth and sixth places.

CONIFA Global Director for No Limit Initiatives, Francesco Zema, said: “As Global Director for No Limit initiatives, I am proud and at the same time happy to be part of such an historical moment in which CONIFA opens its doors to new football and cultural formats. 

“This tournament is a small but very important response to the pandemic and a sign of closeness and direct support to our federations and those that share with us the desire to build more inclusive football and bridges between people, territories and cultures.”

CONIFA Global President, Per-Anders Blind, added: “CONIFA is a platform where we are able to create a unique window towards the world. Through this unique platform we can show the world the beauty and greatness of ethnicities, regions, culture, heritage and identity with a mission to contribute to a better world. 

“The No Limits Mediterranean Cup in Sanremo is an important milestone in CONIFA as the first ever organized futsal tournament with a special thanks to CALCI: Comunitá Resilienti, the Principality of Seborga and Schiermacher Outfitters for their invaluable contribution to make this historical moment to come through.

“As Global President, I sincerely wish that the tournament will send a wave of hope and love around the world in these pandemic times. I wish all the teams and management good luck and am really looking forward to following the tournament.” 

The tournament will be live streamed around the world thanks to WeSport, official media partners of the tournament, while extensive coverage will appear via CONIFA’s social media platforms. 

The official tournament logo has been created by graphic designer, videomaker and psychology graduate Fabrizio De Blasi. 

Fabrizio is a social media content creator for companies and freelancers alike. He is also communications and social media manager for Sicily FA.

NOTES: 

  • CONIFA, the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, is the football federation for all associations outside FIFA. It’s a global acting non-profit organization that supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories.

 

  • CONIFA is one of the transnational non-profit organizations to have an area dedicated to inclusion and innovative welfare through sport. No Limits means: football for all abilities; football and educational programs for youth in the 9-16 age group; futsal and cultural programs for ethnic minorities; national identities and original / indigenous communities; football, gender equity, sports education and active citizenship for youth.

 

  • CALCI is a socio-cultural project curated by Francesco Zema. It is a place of meeting, discussion and dialogue that gives voice to the collective memory of the individual populations of the world through stories and symbols of resilience and football.

Liga de Balompié Mexicano (LBM) Official matchball announcement

CONIFA is hereby honored to inform that LIGA DE BALOMPIÉ MEXICANO 🇲🇽 has announced the official matchball used in all league games 2021/22.

In 2020 CONIFA sanctioned the Liga de Balompié Mexicano and signed a license agreement with the league representatives.

Find out more about Liga de Balompié Mexicano at: https://www.balompiemexicano.com/

 

CONIFA Creator/Designer Contest 2021

  • Do you want to be part of the CONIFA European Football Cup dream? We’re looking for you!!!
  • Take a part in the contest to become the Creator of New European Championship Trophy !!!
  • CONIFA has decided to offer the opportunity to all its supporters to send their Trophy Project for the European Championships. After a first selection, a contest will be opened on CONIFA’s social channels where the selected projects will be voted.
  • The winning project will become the New CONIFA European Trophy. The winner will have the opportunity to participate in the European Press Conference 2022, their name will be included
    in the press releases of the European and will win the food and accommodation offered during the European Football Cup 2022.
  • The CONIFA European Championships will be held in Nice in the 2022.
  • The trophy should reflect our vision and mission plus hold our colours
  • The Confederation of Independent Football Associations, is the football federation for all associations outside FIFA. It’s a global acting non-profit organization that supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories.
  • With high ethical standards and dedicated members CONIFA is the world leading organization for people, nations and sportingly isolated regions whom share the joy of playing international football. CONIFA contributes to the enhancement of global relations and international understanding
  • You can send an email to: efctrophy.contest@conifa.org with your details to receive term of participation !!! The contest will close on the 15 the of September !!! We want you !!!

Download the contest details and regulations here: Contest details and regulations

We are looking forward to your proposals/Friendshp for Life/ The CONIFA European Committee

Sicilia FA – our newest member

CONIFA is hereby honored to present our latest approved member, Sicilia FA.

At the CONIFA Global Executive Committee meeting, held 27th June, the ExCo decided to approve the membership application from Sicilia FA.

● Geography: Sicily is an island, its borders are surrounded by the sea and therefore
absolutely well defined (it is included in the list of countries and territories of the
Travelers Century Club, criteria 7 for admission to CONIFA);

● Language: Sicily has its own language, internationally recognized (it is included in the
list ISO 639.2 and 639.3 with code SCN, criteria 10 for admission to CONIFA);

● History: Sicily had its own independent state from 1071 to 1816, first as a county
(1071-1130) and then as a kingdom (1130-1816), developing its own specific political
and institutional traditions, centered on the oldest Parliament in Europe. In the last two
centuries the Sicilians have repeatedly fight for their self-determination and, for this
reason, Italy had to recognize the island’s autonomy in 1946 (criteria 11 for
admission to CONIFA);

● Legal status: Sicily is currently one of the five Autonomous Regions with a Special
Statute of Italy (the only island together with Sardinia). The first in order of foundation
and the only one whose legislative body is recognized as an effective parliamentary
assembly. This means that, compared to other Italian regions, Sicily is recognized with
the widest spaces of autonomy by virtue of its historical, political and geographical
specificities (criteria 11 for admission to CONIFA);

● Cultural identity: Sicily has a cultural identity that makes it recognizable in Italy and
abroad as a reality in its own right, also by virtue of particular folkloristic peculiarities
like, for example, the Puppets Opera (Opera dei Pupi), the Sicilian Carts, its typical
cuisine, and a flag that is over 700 years old (admission criteria 11 of CONIFA)

Find out more about Sicilia FA at their membership page here: Sicilia FA

Statement | 2021 European Football Cup

The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) can confirm that the 2021 European Football Cup (EFC), due to have been held in Nice, France, has been canceled due to new provisions dictated by the covid-19 emergency.

CONIFA’s European Committee reserves the right to decide a new date for the competition but will delay any decision until August 2021, in order to monitor the situation of the pandemic and vaccinations in the various European states.

The decision to cancel EFC 2021 was reached following official communication received by CONIFA from the organizing committee and the government

CONIFA’s European President, Alberto Rischio, declared: “I am truly sorry and regret this decision but it was inevitable due to the new covid-19 restrictions. We all worked hard for the realization of this fantastic European Football Cup but the pandemic was a constant variable.”

Adil Echaoui, President of the EFC organizing committee, added: “I regret to announce that this magnificent event cannot take place this year due to health restrictions.

“We hope that this great and popular tournament can be held in Nice next year and we look forward to seeing you in 2022.”

Given the cancellation of the event, a decision on the new European Trophy will be made by representatives of CONIFA through a contest to be launched on social networks shortly.

In recent months, a Russian artist has created various proposals for the creation of the European Trophy which, from today and over the years, will become a symbol of this wonderful sporting event.

Meanwhile, the EFC commentators contest was a great success, receiving more than 50 applications. CONIFA intends to create a communication group with the applicants in order to involve them in future endeavours.

Statement | No Limit Director, Francesco Zema

The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) is one of the transnational non-profit organizations to have an area dedicated to inclusion and innovative welfare through sport.

No Limits today is:

  • Football for all abilities
  • Football and educational programs for youth in the 9-16 age group
  • Futsal and cultural programs for ethnic minorities, national identities and original / indigenous communities
  • Football, gender equity, sports education and active citizenship for youth

Despite the pandemic, we have made great strides in recent months, even going so far as to include this incredible and talented team on the No Limits Committee.

Francesco Zema

Global No Limit Director

nolimitsdirector@conifa.org

CONIFA European Football Cup Postponed

CONIFA can confirm that the 2021 European Football Cup (EFC), to be held in Nice, France, has been postponed from June 9-19 to July 7-17.

In light of ongoing coronavirus guidelines, the conclusion was reached following positive dialogue between CONIFA officials and qualified members, plus the organizing committee both within the governing body and on the ground in Nice.

European President, Alberto Rischio, said: “The shift has been made to give teams more time to organize themselves around covid-19 restrictions and because many European League Championships are in the process of a return to action.

“The federations have asked to delay the competition so they can have access to the best players.”

Following the withdrawal of Northern Cyprus, who have suspended activities for the year, CONIFA can also confirm the addition of Two Sicilies to the competition.

They will slot into Group A alongside the host side, County of Nice, and Sardinia, meaning a mouth-watering Italian derby awaits in the French Riviera this summer.

Abkhazia, Sapmi, and Szekely Land will contest Group B while holders South Ossetia will meet 2019 hosts Artsakh and tournament newcomers Kernow FA in Group C.

Padania, Western Armenia, and Chameria will make up Group D. A full media guide and brochure will be made available closer to the competition.

Meanwhile, a contest is soon to be launched in order to find commentators who can add color to the tournament’s online interactive coverage, provided by MyCujoo.

Commentators are sought for Armenian, English, French, Hungarian, Italian and Russian viewers. Further information will be released in the coming days.

European President, Alberto Rischio, added: “We are working hard for this amazing Championship and we hope to be able to show all the fans a change of step in the care of many details around the matches.

“We will give voice to the streamed product and work to create a procedure to follow the players, main actors and to enter the heart of every single game.

“If the organizing committee from Nice can manage the event and get the OK from the French sports and health authorities, we will be able to see something fantastic.”

CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2021: The groups are announced!

Holders South Ossetia will meet 2019 hosts Artsakh and tournament newcomers Kernow Football Alliance in Group C of this summer’s fourth CONIFA European Football Cup. 

Meanwhile, Western Armenia, beaten 1-0 by South Ossetia in the final at Stepanakert Republican Stadium, will face two-time champions Padania and Chameria in Group D.

Group A features hosts County of Nice, World Football Cup winners in 2014, who will entertain 2017 runners-up Northern Cyprus and Sardinia who, like Kernow FA, are preparing for their first appearance at a CONIFA competition. 

Finally, 2016 World Football Cup champions Abkhazia line up in Group B alongside Sapmi and Szekely Land.

Each team will play the others in their group stage once, with placement matches to follow, meaning everyone will play at least four matches.

CONIFA President, Per-Anders Blind, said: “I am extremely proud to present the fourth edition of the European Football Cup. During the years we have had the honour of showing amazing and beautiful locations, often unknown to the rest of the world. Now we have the great honour to present an amazing location in Nice and tell the story of this shining diamond in Southern France. 

“I want to take the opportunity to address the appreciation from all over the world to our European President, Alberto Rischio, and his continental committee members who have done an amazing job to prepare the tournament to its best. I of course include the President of the County of Nice, Adil Echaoui.”

CONIFA’s European President, Alberto Rischio, added: “We are proud to launch the fourth edition of the European Football Cup. It will be a fantastic event with 12 teams, 12 cultures and 252 players. 

“The region of Nice is located in one of the most beautiful rivers in the world, the côte d’azur. We thank the great work of the local organising committee, the Municipality of Nice, all the sponsors who are supporting the Championship. Thank you and see you in June.”

Groups announced for first-ever CONIFA World Women’s Football Cup

Sapmi and Northern Cyprus, who played in CONIFA’s first-ever official women’s match in November 2018, have been kept apart in the draw for this summer’s first-ever World Football Cup.

Northern Cyprus lineup in Group A alongside hosts Székely Land and Chameria, while Sapmi will face the Kernow Football Alliance and Cascadia in Group B.

Each team will play the others in their group stage once, with placement matches to follow, meaning everyone will play at least three matches.

CONIFA President, Per-Anders Blind, said: “For me it is a huge honour to present the first-ever Women’s World Football Cup to you. It has been a long journey but it is time to reach one of the most important moments in our organisation’s history and to finally introduce women’s football for real.

“Without women’s football we are incomplete and cover only 50% of the world so I want to take the opportunity to congratulate our Global Women’s Football Director, Håkan Kuorak, our Vice-President, Kristóf Wenczel, and our Tournament Director, Orcun Kamali, for a world class contribution and to finally make this competition come to life.”

Global Women’s Football Director, Håkan Kuorak, added: “I am very proud that we have been able to get the women on the pitch so we can play this first CONIFA women’s tournament. Let’s hope that covid-19 doesn’t stop it. I wish good luck to all the participants.”

CONIFA Stories: Kernow FA

“The hunger remains the same. Cornwall doesn’t need permission to be at its best and I’m sure that will continue for years to come,” – Kernow Football Alliance chairman and co-founder, Jason Heaton.

The spring sun shines upon Priory Park’s lush green surface. The gold and black of the host’s kit glistens in all its glory. Swathes of support sing from the stand, beckoning history their way. It is Saturday, May 25, 2019 – and international football has arrived in Cornwall.

The first whistle is met with a roar of emotion as Kernow Football Alliance kick-off against visiting Barawa, ‘there to represent the capital of the southwestern Somalia state against a collection of players carrying the hopes, dreams and hunger of 11 million Cornish people around the world.

It is just six months since Kernow [the word for Cornwall in its native language] were elected to join the Confederation of Independent Football Associations – simply referred to as CONIFA – and only their third game together as a team, following two unofficial friendly fixtures against local opposition within the Duchy.

The story since that day – which ended in a 5-0 triumph for the home side – has been one of partnership, of patriotism and of pride, as the Kernow Football Alliance secured qualification to the 2020 World Football Cup (WFC), something celebrated, as the Cornish motto goes, by Onen hag oll (one and all).

“Kernow FA has, since its conception, never failed to deliver,” says chairman and co-founder Jason Heaton. “It has delivered international football and created something that even the non-football fan can get behind.

“It was always about bringing the community together, creating the right environment to thrive and co-operation, in respect of the very pillars of the Cornish way of life. This is what has opened doors to something new and exciting.”

Long has there been a movement to seek greater autonomy for Cornwall – known for its world-renowned mining prowess in the form of tin and copper, as well as china clay within the United Kingdom – similar to that seen in Wales, in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.

In 2014, Cornwall, recognised as a Celtic nation alongside Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany and CONIFA counterparts Isle of Man (Ellan Vannin), was recognised as a distinct ethnic group and granted minority status under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

These days, fishing, agriculture and tourism are three of the major industries in the Duchy with people flocking from far and wide to visit Cornwall’s joyous juxtaposition of coastline and moorland.

While the county’s own dialect is seeing something of a revival, fuelling the immense feeling of identity, culture and heritage within the region, it is the international language of football that is largely being utilized to take Cornwall forward.

Plans were in place, backed to the hilt by the Cornish people and endorsed by its very own Cornwall Football Association, to visit North Macedonia in the summer of 2020 – a year on from the Barawa game – to compete in the WFC as Europe’s top qualifiers.

Ultimately, the tournament was shelved due to the outbreak of covid-19 but, far from feeling sorry for themselves, time off the pitch has been spent firming up the foundations of Kernow FA.

“The time has been used to develop behind the scenes and make sure we’re ready when the time is right,” continued Heaton. “We have remained creative during a global crisis, which shows our capacity to endure and uphold the Cornish spirit.

“Now, with a director for inclusive football and at least two major tournaments on the horizon in 2021 [European Football Cup and No-Limits], we can set the bar higher than ever. The hunger remains the same. Cornwall doesn’t need permission to be at its best and I’m sure that will continue for years to come.”

The idea for a Cornish membership was first floated in December 2016 by county native and co-founder Andrew Bragg, who has followed the project through to the present day, now taking up the Alliance’s Director of Football role.

“As a proud Cornishman and having been involved in Cornish football for over 50 years, I can honestly say that Kernow FA is the most exciting and innovative project I’ve ever been involved in.

“At Kernow FA we have tried and hopefully succeeded at not only showcasing our football on the world stage but also our history. We have been amazed at the support we have received from all over the world.

“After qualifying for the 2020 World Football Cup in North Macedonia we were inundated with requests about travel arrangements so people could come and support their national team.

“We like to think of Kernow FA as an inclusive family where everyone is welcome and everyone’s ideas are important. A massive thank you to everyone who has been involved and supported us. We couldn’t have done it without you.”

The team’s head coach, Darren Gilbert, who has enjoyed unbridled success with Cornwall’s Bodmin Town both as a player, captain and team boss, described it as an ‘honour to manage and represent Kernow FA’ while some of his team went further still.

“For me, Kernow FA has been really enjoyable and I have been really proud and honoured to have played and represent Cornwall,” says midfielder, Tallan Mitchell.

“I think it has shown that we have some really talented players and coaches in Cornwall and the support we have received in our first couple of games has been amazing. I for one can’t wait for more games and to see what the future has to offer for Kernow FA.”

Team-mate and top goalscorer, Mark Goldsworthy, added: “As a proud Cornishman, it has been an absolute honour to represent Kernow FA.

“To be a part of it from the very start and watch it grow has been amazing and I cannot wait to, hopefully, be involved well into the future and put Cornish football on the world map.”

CONIFA Announces First-Ever Women’s World Football Cup

CONIFA are delighted to confirm that Kernow FA, Northern Cyprus, Sapmi, Cascadia, Chameria and host member Székely Land will compete in this summer’s first-ever CONIFA Women’s World Football Cup (June 23-30).

Kristóf Wenczel, CONIFA Vice-President, said: “Székely Land is very proud to host the first ever CONIFA Women’s World Football Cup. It is a huge leap in the life of CONIFA, and a milestone in the history of Székely Land.

“Despite the extraordinary times, hopefully many of you may attend and may experience the warm hospitality of the Székely people and the breathtaking landscape. We have a strong hope that the vaccination may reach our athletes by the date of the tournament and it can be held safely.”

More detailed information will be presented during and following the competition draw ceremony, which will take place today (January 31; 12.00 pm CET) and be used to split the teams into two groups of three.

Please note, there is a full reserve list of teams (Quebec, Tamil Eelam, Zanzibar, Matabeleland, and Tibet) in case any of those qualified can no longer attend the competition. This list is also dependent on each team paying its CONIFA membership fee by the deadline, and signing a tournament contract, so may be subject to change.

Further information will be released in due course but, in the meantime, CONIFA looks forward to welcoming all our qualified teams to this historic Women’s World Football Cup in Székely Land later this year.

European Football Cup returns for 2021 in Nice

We are delighted to confirm that the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2021 will take place in Nice, France on June 9-19, 2021.

We also take great pride in announcing that the following members have qualified for the tournament and will be placed into four groups of three teams during Sunday’s draw ceremony (January 31; 1.00 pm CET):

Pot One: County of Nice, South Ossetia, Padania, Abkhazia

Pot Two: Sapmi, Western Armenia, Northern Cyprus, Artsakh

Pot Three: Szekely Land, Chameria, Sardinia, Kernow FA

 

CONIFA’s European President, Albert Rischio, said: “We have worked closely with the local committee in Nice month by month since CONIFA made their decision on a host in August. With covid-19, the competition has become like a game of Tetris and we are working on precautions to keep eveybody safe.

“All teams will have to take a test for covid-19 before they fly to Nice. After landing, they will take another test from the local organisation to check their health.”

He added: “The committee is proud of this massive tournament for Europe. For the first time we have 12 teams and we can see new federations like Cornwall and Sardinia who have never attended a previous tournament. We also have, in South Ossetia, our reigning European champions. I would like to say good luck to all the teams.

“The European Committee are also looking forward to working with supporters and launching a contest to find five multi-language commentators for our live match coverage on MyCujoo, to add even more colour to each and every game in the tournament.”

Please note, there is a list of reserve teams (Two Sicilies, Carpathia and Romani People) in case any of those qualified can no longer attend the competition. This list is also dependent on each team paying its CONIFA membership fee by the deadline, and signing a tournament contract, so may be subject to change.

CONIFA looks forward to welcoming all our qualified teams to the Sportsbet.io European Football Cup in Nice this summer.

WATCH: CONIFA Edu-Business Summit

Watch CONIFA’s first-ever Edu-Business Summit designed to provide CONIFA FA’s with best practice for the FA and club management. Learn more about Goals and Strategies, Revenue Generation, Audience Growth, and Engagement – https://youtu.be/btCIIFV8Rmw

CONIFA Edu Business Summit 2021

CONIFA is honored to invite you to or first digital event ever. The CONIFA Edu Business Summit, Saturday 23rd January through Zoom. The content holds several Global Leaders in Sport Business who will share their competences and know-how with you. So WELCOME !!! The event is free of charge! All times in CET. The event is organised by the CONIFA General Manager, Dr. Fabio Puntillo and will give insights and values for all participants.

CONIFA Teams Up With Schiermacher Outfitters

CONIFA is pleased to announce a three-year-partnership that will see Scandanvian based, Schiermacher Outfitters, welcomed on board as official technical supplier.

The collaboration means, amongst other things, that all CONIFA representatives and staff at all official CONIFA events will use clothing and equipment exclusively supplied by Schiermacher, who will also supply official balls for matches at all CONIFA events.

CONIFA President, Mr. Per-Anders Blind, said: “We are delighted to welcome Schiermacher Outfitters to our network as official technical suppliers and to introduce them to our valued membership. Schiermacher’s expertise in the business is unrivalled and we look forward to developing our close partnership across the next three years.”

Schiermacher President, Mr. Henrik Schiermacher, added: “We are very proud to have this opportunity and we will do our utmost to fulfill all the demands coming from CONIFA and all their highly valued members.”

Schiermacher’s brand representation includes Kelme and Precision. For further information and to browse their online web shop, visit www.sportsbag.dk

CONIFA calls for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh

CONIFA abhor the use of military action as a method of resolving a dispute and believes in meaningful dialogue and communication.

CONIFA Global President, Per-Anders Blind, said, “CONIFA is saddened by the escalating situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We call upon all players to consider a diplomatic solution to the problem and we therefore encourage dialogue among all players. War is always not a good option as there is no ultimate winner in any conflict.”

President Per-Anders Blind further called on all sides to urgently work towards a peaceful solution and to remind all sides of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

“The thoughts of everyone in CONIFA are with the people affected by the conflict”.

CONIFA held the third edition of the European Football Cup in 2019 in the same Nagorno-Karabakh, otherwise styled as the Republic of Artsakh, one if its esteemed members in the Caucasus region.

CONIFA launches strategic plan for global disabled football tournaments

No Limits Strategic Plan, Rules and Guidelines PDF

1 – According to the 2011 World Report on Disability by the World Health Organisation/World Bank, there are an estimated 1 billion persons with disabilities worldwide. The same report states that 1 in 5 of the world’s poorest people have disabilities. Disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty, yet international policy-makers and stakeholders have not historically recognised or prioritised this issue within international development efforts.

2 – International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons
Speaking at the opening of the United Nations Human Rights Council Social Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Parsons highlighted how sport is one of the best vehicles for promoting human rights.
“You really do have to ask, is it the impairment that is a making a person disabled or is it society? The practise of sport is itself a human right and it is sport that has a unique unifying power to attract and inspire, bringing together and empowering people of all backgrounds free from discrimination,” explained Parsons who used his address to question the stigma still attached to disability.
“Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. If this is the case, then why are people with disabilities still among the most marginalised groups in the world?

3 – Home Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)Article 30 – Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport Article 30 – Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport 1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to take part on an equal basis with others in cultural life, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities:
a) Enjoy access to cultural materials in accessible formats;
b) Enjoy access to television programmes, films, theatre and other cultural activities, in accessible formats;
c) Enjoy access to places for cultural performances or services, such as theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries and tourism services, and, as far as possible, enjoy access to monuments and sites of national cultural importance.

States Parties shall take appropriate measures to enable persons with disabilities to have the opportunity to develop and utilize their creative, artistic and intellectual potential, not only for their own benefit, but also for the enrichment of society.
States Parties shall take all appropriate steps, in accordance with international law, to ensure that laws protecting intellectual property rights do not constitute an unreasonable or discriminatory barrier to access by persons with disabilities to cultural materials.
Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture.
With a view to enabling persons with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure and sporting activities, States Parties shall take appropriate measures:
a) To encourage and promote the participation, to the fullest extent possible, of persons with disabilities in mainstream sporting activities at all levels;
b) To ensure that persons with disabilities have an opportunity to organize, develop and participate in disability-specific sporting and recreational activities and, to this end, encourage the provision, on an equal basis with others, of appropriate instruction, training and resources;
c) To ensure that persons with disabilities have access to sporting, recreational and tourism venues;
d) To ensure that children with disabilities have equal access with other children to participation in play, recreation and leisure and sporting activities, including those activities in the school system;
(e) To ensure that persons with disabilities have access to services from those involved in the organization of recreational, tourism, leisure and sporting activities.
4 – Panel Discussion on Sports for Inclusive Development: Sports, Disability and Development: Key to empowerment of persons with disabilities and their communities, 27 June 2011, 1.15 to 2.30 p.m., Conference Room 6, UN Headquarters, New York

Sport as a catalyst for inclusion of persons with disabilities in society
The universal popularity of sport and the physical, social and economic developmental benefits derived from it, make it an ideal tool for fostering the inclusion and well-being of persons with disabilities. Sport works to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with disability because it transforms community attitudes about persons with disabilities by highlighting their skills and reducing the tendency to see the disability instead of the abilities of a person. Through sport, persons without disabilities can interact with persons with disabilities in a positive context and thus allow them to reshape assumptions about what persons with disabilities can and cannot do. Moreover, sport’s unique ability to transcend linguistic, cultural and social barriers makes it an excellent platform for strategies of inclusion and adaptation.
Sport has the power to change the lives of persons with disability in an equally profound way, by empowering them to realize their full potential and advocate for change in society. Through sport, persons with disabilities acquire vital social skills, develop independence, and become empowered to act as agents of change. Sport teaches individuals how to communicate effectively and highlights the significance of teamwork, cooperation and respect for others. Sport is also well-suited to reducing dependence and developing greater independence by helping persons with disabilities become physically and mentally stronger. These skills can be transferred into other arenas including employment and advocacy work to further self-sufficiency.

Updates from CONIFA – read our latest newsletter

Despite a COVID-postponed World Cup, we have been extremely busy behind the scenes at CONIFA with lots of exciting new announcements and initiatives. For details of our new member associations, the visuals behind our re-brand, the launch of our No Limits disabled football initiative and new Ex-Co members, read on!

Confederation of Independent Football Associations 2020

CONIFA Sanctions Liga de Balompié Mexicano, Its First-Ever Professional League

News marks latest CONIFA expansion in North America and the Caribbean

To watch the live press conference please follow the links – https://www.facebook.com/CONIFA and https://www.facebook.com/SomosBalompie/

The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) is proud to announce the sanctioning of Liga de Balompié Mexicano (LBM). The LBM is the first league to be sanctioned by CONIFA, making it the organization’s first venture into league sanctioning worldwide. The same values CONIFA upholds are held by the Liga de Balompié Mexicano.

An agreement co-signed by CONIFA President Per-Anders Blind and LBM President Victor Montiel commits Liga de Balompié Mexicano to CONIFA’s code of conduct. The agreement follows the recent confirmation of the Asociación National de Balompié Mexicano (ABMN) as a CONIFA Football Association.

An ABMN National Team, representing native Mexican peoples, will reside under the jurisdiction of CONIFA North America and Caribbean.

The induction of LBM and ABMN are CONIFA’s latest moves in Mexico and Central America. On Wednesday, CONIFA announced that the Asociación de Fútbol Kuskatan, representing the indigenous Nahuas, or Pipil, people of western El Salvador, was approved as a CONIFA FA.

They join the Cascadia Association Football Federation (representing the Cascadia region of the U.S. and Canada) and Les Québécois (representing the French-speaking Canadian region of Québec) to compete for CONIFA tournament qualification and regional titles.

“I could not be more excited to welcome the ABMN to the CONIFA family. They are a very exciting group that will raise the level of competition in our regional and global competitions,” said Aaron Johnsen, President of CONIFA’s North America and Caribbean region. “We are looking forward to working with them as well as other leagues around the world to grow the game,”

As of this release, 10 professional teams are committed to the LBM with 15 more looking to occupy the 10 remaining spots in the inaugural campaign. There are ongoing plans to grow a three-tiered system consisting of 60 teams, with movement between levels to be dictated by promotion or relegation.

The league’s teams span across Mexico from Baja California to Yucatán. The league plans to start in September 2020.

Moving forward, CONIFA will explore opportunities for clubs to compete in new national and international competitions.

More information and contacts

CONIFA, is the football federation for all associations outside FIFA. It’s a global non-profit organization that supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports-isolated territories.

Inquiries:

Global media: Please contact James Cronin, james.cronin@conifa.org
Mexican media: Please contact Javier Levy, javier.levy@balompiemexicano.com
Other North American media: Please contact Aaron Johnsen, aaron.johnsen@conifa.org
Online:

CONIFA: Web site | Twitter
CONIFA North America and Caribbean: Twitter
LBM: Twitter

Media Advisory: Major CONIFA Announcement July 9

Football fans, supporters and members of the press:

CONIFA will hold a press conference, viewable via www.conifa.org, on Thursday 9 July at 10 a.m. ET/3p.m. BST, regarding its activities in North America.

For more information about this event:

Mexican media: Please contact Javier Levy, javier.levy@balompiemexicano.com

U.S. media: Please contact David Marino-Nachison, david.marino-nachison@conifa.org

Global media: Please contact James Cronin, james.cronin@conifa.org

Asociación de Fútbol Kuskatan Joins CONIFA

The organisation becomes the second in the North America and Caribbean region to join CONIFA this year.

The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) is proud to announce that the Asociación de Fútbol Kuskatan (AFK) was approved as its newest member by a vote of its executive committee on July 5, 2020.

The AFK, the first-ever CONIFA member representing Central America, will form national team programs representing the indigenous Nahuas, or Pipil, people of western El Salvador, in CONIFA competitions. The organization, based in the Washington, D.C., area, is actively recruiting staff, donors, players and supporters in both the U.S. and El Salvador.

“We are excited to finally have this project up and running in hopes of fully supporting the Nahuas of Kuskatan and to assist with keeping the language and culture alive and well through football,” said AFK President Brian Rodriguez. “We have a beautiful community full of history and heritage that we would like to present to the world.”

The AFK is the second organization representing the North America and Caribbean region to be approved for membership in 2020, following the Asociación Nacional de Balompié Mexicano (ANBM), which represents native Mexicans and was approved for membership in June.

“We’re delighted to welcome the AFK and to work with them to help the organization become a strong CONIFA team,” said Aaron Johnson, president of CONIFA’s North America and Caribbean region. “This has been an exciting year for this region in CONIFA so far, and we believe there’s even more good news ahead.”

The AFK and ANBM join the Cascadia Association Football Federation (representing the Cascadia region of the U.S. and Canada) and Les Québécois (representing the French speaking Canadian region of Québec) in a rapidly growing regional confederation that is seeking additional growth this year and beyond.

All new CONIFA member football associations approved by CONIFA’s Executive Committee in 2020 are provisional pending a final member vote at the 2021 Annual General Meeting in January. Until that time, they may represent themselves as CONIFA members and compete in any relevant CONIFA competitions.

More information and contacts

CONIFA, is the football federation for all associations outside FIFA. It’s a global non-profit organization that supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports-isolated territories.

Inquiries:

Global media: Please contact James Cronin, james.cronin@conifa.org
Media in North American and the Carribean: Please contact President Aaron Johnsen, aaron.johnsen@conifa.org
AFK: Please contact President Brian Rodriguez, futbolkuskatan@protonmail.com
Online:

CONIFA: Web site | Twitter
CONIFA North & Central America and the Caribbean: Twitter
AFK: Twitter

Diego Bartalotta Camarillo joins CONIFA

CONIFA is pleased to welcome Diego Bartalotta Camarillo on board as the new President for our South America region.

Upon taking the position, Diego told us: “I am a former professional soccer player, and an intermediary in sports management and international business. I speak 3 languages, English, Italian and Spanish.

“My passion for soccer has allowed me to travel the world in search of improving the future of young people. “I live for soccer and, as CONIFA’s President for South America, it will allow me to carry out sporting activities in the American continent, and to provide young people across our members the opportunity for development.”

Welcome, Diego!

CONIFA Appoint New General Manager

Dr. Fabio Puntillo has been confirmed as the new General Manager for CONIFA as the organisation continue to plan for the future.

The CONIFA ExCo is committed to supporting the growth of the whole organisation. With the CONIFA events growing ever bigger, and the increasing number of members, this require more efficient and effective strategies and actions.

Establishing the role of General Manager is part of the answer and brings to the ExCo and CONIFA, a skilled person to professionally manage the business side of the Confederation’s events and activities.

Fabio’s appointment in April as General Manager, global business, of CONIFA, continues his journey with the organisation.

He joined CONIFA in 2018 as Chief Marketing Officer, bringing 25 years of experience in international business development, media convergence, sponsorship and event management with the major sports marketing agencies (IMG and Infont Italy). He has also held roles as senior manager of the UAE FA and business advisor of the Italian FA.

Fabio has been a lecturer in international business management at the University of Rome, worked in North America, Asia, the Middle East and Europe, holds an MBA from the University of Southern California and a DBA from the University of Rome.

As he settles into his new role, Fabio’s business agenda includes:

– Supporting CONIFA members’ business development through training and Continental business managers

– Increasing audience 5 to 10 times over the next 2 years through partnerships with local media outlets

– Establishing, in partnership with the FAs, a global sponsors’ club “Companies with Heart”

– Supporting new continental competitions for clubs (the Champions League) – Extending the social mission of CONIFA: new No Limits tournaments and the charity initiative “Boots for Youth” for the wellbeing of disadvantaged people

We wish Fabio well with his new role!

Andreas Trenker designs new logo

By Pat McGuinness 

“CONIFA is way more than just a football association. It is also a tool for peoples to make their voices heard through sports.” So says Andreas Trenker, winner of the recent competition to design CONIFA’s new logo, and his effort, which was recently chosen out of a field of some thirty entries, is stunning yet easy on the eye.

Andreas (pictured below) hails from Sudtirol, an autonomous region in northern Italy bordering Austria and Switzerland which Italy’s German-speaking minority calls home. (Fans of the EUROPEADA tournament will immediately recognise the name of the region).

 

He works as a graphic designer and also as a teaching assistant at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano’s Faculty of Design and Art, and, in his own words, is “living between the Dolomites mountains and Amsterdam.”

Two iconic locations, indeed, and when he read about the chance to design an iconic emblem for CONIFA, it was an opportunity the twenty-nine-year-old couldn’t pass up, though it came about by accident.

“Since some time ago, I planned to visit the CONIFA tournament as a photographer to document this interesting event, but each time something got into my way. As I checked if this year’s edition got cancelled because of COVID-19, I came across the open call for a new logo and decided to participate.”

Andreas said that his aim was to highlight CONIFA’s ethos in his entry, and explained the fuller meaning behind the logo: “For me, it was important to transmit the values of CONIFA in the logo. CONIFA to me is a sort of intersectional space where peoples from various parts of the world get in touch through football. It’s a place of dialogue situated beyond the general idea of geographical or national borders.

“So, CONIFA is way more than just a football association. It is also a tool for peoples to make their voice heard through sports. Therefore, I wanted to bring this aspect of dialogue, friendship and athletic competition into my design.”

He based his design on a football, and it wasn’t the image of just any old football, either:
“I wanted to get the shape of a football into the negative space of the logo, so that it is not immediately visible but still recognisable. The faces in the form of hexagons were inspired by the iconic Adidas Telstar football of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, a great piece of design which became the stereotype of when we think about a football. The single faces are oriented towards the centre, to highlight this idea of exchange and dialogue through sports.”

Three versions of the logo were made, a white-on-black design, a black-and-white version, and a colour version. The first two versions were no less dramatic than the colour version, but Andreas decided to submit the colour version to the judges.

The sheer diversity of CONIFA’s member associations and the organisation’s policy of inclusion came to the fore when making his decision as to which version of his entry he would submit, as he explained. He then went on to describe the process of turning his design from a pencil sketch into his actual entry.

“The monochromatic version of the logo has either only black faces (on a white background) or only white faces (on a black background) and because this could give the wrong idea of exclusion, it was very important to have a colour version of the logo in which each hexagon has a different colour and therefore stands for the diversity of the cultures, languages and ethnicities represented by CONIFA. The logotype was designed exclusively for CONIFA.”

“I worked on different sketches until I came up with the final design. I guess the whole process took about 4 days and later I finalized the design in dialogue with the CONIFA team. This took another 2 days and consisted mostly in fine-tuning the initial design, fixing some shapes and distances to make them work the same on both bright and dark backgrounds and in putting together a colour scheme which works for CONIFA. There were many variations and tests involved such as a version with six instead of five heads.”

 

Thanks to his father’s influence, Andreas has followed German third-level side 1860 Munich since childhood, but, as he admits, he is not what he would call a “classical” football fan. However, he is, as he says himself, “more interested in the culture and subcultures which emerge and surround this beautiful game. For me as a graphic designer, the world of football is very rich in visual language and this world is very inspirational, reaching from the visual influences of the Ultras subculture to the beautiful kits worn by Mexican goalie Jorge Campos.”

Although the outbreak of the Corona virus, and the subsequent pandemic, put paid to his plans to attend a CONIFA tournament this year, Andreas is nevertheless intent on doing so in the very near future, and follows the twists and turns of each and every tournament under the organisation’s auspices. He also mentioned what CONIFA means to him; it is, to paraphrase Barcelona’s club motto, more than a football confederation.

“CONIFA is also a means to learn about the world surrounding us. Thanks to these tournaments and its members one can gain knowledge about some geopolitical situations, different ethnicities or peoples connected across several nation-states. But, it is also a platform for those football nations which are not recognized by FIFA.

“So, for all these countries, regions and ethnic groups [outside FIFA’s scope, being a CONIFA member] is a great opportunity to be visible on a global scale and to make their voice heard. And, as long as this doesn’t turn into nationalism or any sort of hostilities, this seems to me to be a beautiful thing.”

Andreas doesn’t follow a particular CONIFA team, but, if he was forced to choose one to follow, he says that “it will be the one which will hire me to design their new jerseys. (Laughs) I’ve always wanted to design a football strip.” Which leads us back to 1860 Munich and their badge: “Let’s be honest, they have one of the most beautiful football logos in Europe.” So, now, too, does CONIFA.

To find out more about Andreas and his work, kindly visit: www.andreastrenker.com

Hope on the horizon for Kiribati and Tuvalu

There’s good news on the horizon for two CONIFA members. Both Kiribati and Tuvalu look set to start playing football under the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC).

The news first broke on 14 March 2020, when a Facebook post quoting Tuvalu Islands Football Association (TIFA) President Soseala Tinilau appeared on a page called Tuvaluan From Within.

In the post, Tinilau stated that the OFC, the governing body for football in Oceania under FIFA, had decided to restart their Associate Membership.

“They’ve agreed to work with Associate Members including TIFA, and provide funding again. They’ll also allow us to take part in their OFC tournaments,” the post read.

On 16 March, the news was officially confirmed.

“We had our Executive Committee meeting last month, and I am pleased to inform you that the President of OFC, Lambert Maltock, and the OFC executive members recognised the importance to work with OFC Associate Members and agreed to assist Kiribati Islands Football Federation (KIFF) and Tuvalu Football (TF) to develop football,” OFC General Secretary Franck Castillo wrote in an email to the website Football In Oceania.

“As Associate Members, KIFF and TF will be invited to take part in some of our development programmes and will receive technical assistance from the football division. The OFC Football Division will be in touch with them to assess the situation and needs, develop a proper football development strategy and an operational plan. We can also assist them in building their budget,” Castillo continued.

He confirmed that the two CONIFA members will be able to participate in OFC tournaments, hopefully starting from 2021 onwards.

The two FAs will also get 30,000 NZD (circa $18,000 or €16,000) in funding to be used for footballing activity in the two countries.Disclaimer: the author of this article is part of the CONIFA media team and also runs the website Football In Oceania.

Who is Francesco Zema?

CONIFA is keen to support players from all backgrounds as it celebrates inclusivity across the globe. In our latest feature, we catch up with Francesco Zema, the organisation’s Disabled Football Manager.

Tell us a bit about you?
I am a Non-Profit specialist working with vulnerable communities, young at risk and disabled people. I am family man and an avid traveler. My greatest strength is my intellectual curiosity. I love the way the world, the people and different cultures can shape me. Football for me is a true love and a consistent part of my life.

How did you manage to become European disabled football manager?
Well, I have always been in touch with football tournaments, sports projects and cultural events. Surfing the net, I found out about CONIFA and I started to follow the organization and its events. I began to make some connections on Facebook with members and FAs, until I had a call with CONIFA’s European President Alberto Rischio.

Alberto explained to me about CONIFA’s vision regarding football for all and the big challenge in giving a chance to disabled people to play football and be linked with the rest of the footballing world. We had a good talk; we shared some points of view and finally Alberto asked me to join the European team giving me the opportunity to fill the role of European disabled manager.

What is your point of view on CONIFA?
I’ve read somewhere a beautiful description about CONIFA: Recognising the Unrecognised and Championing the Underdog. That’s the best way to underline why I love CONIFA.

CONIFA is not a conventional organization. In my opinion it is the right place where people can be encouraged to make new friendships and connections through football.

CONIFA values the power of football: from its grassroots to the World Footbal Cup, they are trying to give the opportunity to play and to represent people everywhere in the world. That opportunity is for all, no matter what the political status, cultural differences, or social and special issues like disabled people: CONIFA aims to bring freedom to play.

I love it because I ‘ve always believed that football could change the world. Here, all fans can fly the flag of their team sharing culture and good time with other fans. Players and FAs have got a key role: they represent the good spirit of football, the love for their places, their culture and their people. Inclusivity is the word.

How will you promote football for disabled in Europe?
First, I will promote our values, our vision and how football for disabled is important for CONIFA. Then I will work together with the European Committee and FAs with two specific goals: to promote football for disabled within the European membership and to develop a strategy to implement and improve this area.

You said you already known some CONIFA territories. Where have you been?
I had the chance to visit Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, Transnistria, Monaco, County of Nice, Occitania, Raetia, Jersey, and Mapuche among others. I wish to visit all the European FAs and their lands during my time with CONIFA.

After the No Limits European tournament in Monte Carlo, do you think others European FAs will manage to set up a team for players with a disability?
The No Limits European Tournament held in Montecarlo in 2019 marked an historical and successful milestone for CONIFA and disabled football. Sardinia, Padania, Monaco and County of Nice produced a fantastic tournament and the venue was simply amazing! That tournament was covered by Mycujoo.tv and we understood that many people across the world followed the live streaming of all matches.

Can we call it a challenge?
It is! It’s not easy to organize a continental tournament for disabled people. You must take into account many things such as the venue, hospitality and how to move and help all teams. We are enthusiastic to face this challenge, because we believe that next No Limits Cup will be a fantastic opportunity to give a chance to play and a good visibility for football for disabled people.

How many teams have an opportunity of football for disabled people?
Many European FAs declared their interest to send their representative team to No Limits 2021. We have already received 8 requests, but we are only at the first steps. I will ask all FAs to start thinking and develop a local action plan about football for disabled people.

Do you know where you will host No Limits in 2021? Any candidates?
I am proud to be a part of a great European Committee. Our team has already started to focus on No Limits 2021 Euro Cup. We had some calls and we have planned the road to No Limits. In the coming days, I will contact every FAs introducing our project, the terms of admission and the possibility to host the tournament.

As I said before, last No Limits Cup showed us that there is a huge interest on football for disabled people and many FAs know the importance to host such competition. We’ll see!

The CONIFA World Rankings: there’s a new team at the top!

The CONIFA World Rankings have been updated – and sees Northern Cyprus take top spot.

The European side were sitting second in the previous ranking from October 2018, but as Occitania has been inactive for more than 24 months, the Northern Cypriots have snatched first place.

Behind them comes EFC champions Karpatalya, and in third, Kurdistan, who have leapfrogged Padania. The team from northern Italy themselves fall to ninth on the newly updated table.

Check out the rankings in full at the bottom of this article!

Of the most recently admitted CONIFA members, Parishes of Jersey, comes on to the list with a bang.

The island team has skyrocketed to fourth place, ahead of 2019’s European Football Cup hosts, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).

At the foot of the table, we find Oceania side Tuvalu, who despite playing in the 2019 Pacific Games, have been leapfrogged by Darfur, Chagos Islands, Tibet and Raetia, who all climb up the table.

The CONIFA rankings are decided by a number of elements, and all matches reported in to CONIFA count towards the ranking. Matches against CONIFA opposition counts more than matches against non-CONIFA members, and tournaments count more than friendlies. If you want to know the finer details of how the ranking is made up, find out here; but for now, congratulations to Northern Cyprus on their No1 spot!

 

CONIFA RANKING, UPDATED AS OF 01.01.20

The CONIFA global media team is seeking photography volunteers for the World Football Cup 2020!

The CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup is approaching quickly! And CONIFA global media will be in Skopje, North Macedonia from 30 May – 8 June 2020, covering every aspect of CONIFA’s biggest football tournament since London 2018.

Sixteen teams will face off to decide who will be CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup champions in various stadia in and around Skopje. And the global media team is looking for 2-3 volunteer photographers who can help us capture the matches in all their intensity.

If you’re a photographer who has some sporting or events experience and is looking to grow your portfolio, or if you’re a snapper who is wanting to visit North Macedonia and photograph the country as well as a set number of football matches on each match day, we’d love to hear from you.

Everyone who volunteers for CONIFA does so without pay, which does mean you’d have to make your own way to Skopje and fund yourself while you’re out there. But CONIFA can offer 2-3 photographers who are shooting for the global media team free accommodation (shared rooms) and board for the duration of the tournament (30 May – 8 June 2020).

You’ll also be part of a friendly and supportive media team, and will get the opportunity to photograph teams from across the globe as they do battle to be crowned CONIFA World Football Cup champions.

If you’re interested in volunteering for CONIFA as a photographer, please do email media@conifa.org by 3 March 2020 to find out more. Do include a CV or portfolio for consideration. We look forward to seeing you in Skopje!

Breaking down borders: the Southern Frontier Cup comes to Surrey

Words: Danny Clarke

On 1 September 2019, International Surrey Football, a non-FIFA representative team for the county of Surrey, located in the south-east of England, announced its plan to hold a four-team invitational tournament in the region. Called the Southern Frontier Cup, it invited three CONIFA members to compete ahead of the 2020 CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup.

The name of the tournament derives from the region’s Saxon history as a sparsely populated frontier region, with the majority of Surrey’s population listed on the banks of the River Thames closer to areas such as Southwark and Brixton, while little settlements existed in areas closer to the South Downs.

The region was fought over between the surrounding kingdoms of the time, Kent, Essex, Sussex, Wessex and Mercia, before the county was finally conquered by Wessex in 825. The name Surrey itself is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘Sūþrīge’ (or ‘Suthrige’), meaning ‘southern region’, and this is thought to originate from the region’s status as the southern-most portion of Mercian territory.

The tournament, playing its inaugural edition in May 2020, will consist of four teams, including the host Surrey as well as three invited teams. The competition is played over two days in a knockout format, with teams being drawn at random into one of two semi-final fixtures. The losing teams from both fixtures will play a third-place fixture the following day, while the winning teams from both fixtures will play in the final held following the third-place fixture, giving each team two games in the tournament.

The 2020 Southern Frontier Cup will be held at Whyteleafe Football Club, located in the eastern part of Surrey in the borough of Tandridge (located south of Croydon), between 23-24 May, one week prior to the start of the CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020, taking place in Skopje, North Macedonia between 30 May – 7 June.

Surrey had invited three CONIFA teams to take part, two of which have qualified for the 2020 World Football Cup.

Surrey – Playing their first game in 2018, ahead of the 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup held in London, International Surrey Football is hosting the Southern Frontier Cup. Surrey has previously played friendlies against two CONIFA members, Barawa and the Chagos Islands, as well as a friendly against the British Army FA, a county-level FA which is a member of the Football Association. Their participation in the Southern Frontier Cup will follow two other friendlies to be held earlier in May.

Yorkshire – Debuting in early 2018, the Yorkshire International Football Association was the first participant announced for the Southern Frontier Cup. Yorkshire debuted against Ellan Vannin and has gone on to play in a total of eight games, all against CONIFA members.

Cascadia – Debuting in the group stage of the 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup, the Cascadia Association Football Federation finished sixth out of the 16 participating teams. The north American side has qualified to participate in the 2020 edition of the World Football Cup and played two friendlies in 2019 against the Chagos Islands, which was held at Whyteleafe, as well as Darfur, held in Washington state, USA.

Parishes of Jersey – Debuting near the end of 2019 against Yorkshire, the Parishes of Jersey were the final team to be announced as participants in the Southern Frontier Cup. The Channel Island team has qualified for the 2020 CONIFA World Football Cup in North Macedonia. Parishes of Jersey has played three games, twice against Yorkshire as well as once against the Chagos Islands.

Looking beyond the 2020 edition of the Southern Frontier Cup, International Surrey Football has already outlined ambitions to hold editions of the tournament on an annual basis, with intentions for the tournament to be expanded to include a women’s edition to support Surrey’s women’s team, who are expected to debut ahead of the start of the Southern Frontier Cup in 2020. To find out more or to buy tickets for the 2020 Southern Frontier Cup, go to https://www.eventbrite.co.

CONIFA’s AGM: looking to the future in Jersey

CONIFA began debating its agenda for the coming decade on day one of its 7th Annual General Meeting, opened in Jersey by Global President Per-Anders Blind and Jersey’s Assistant Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture Senator, Steve Pallett.

Steve, whose ministerial responsibilities cover the island’s sport, reflected on Jersey’s rich history of grassroots football – particularly the Jersey Bulls non-league football club – and its fierce sporting rivalry with Guernsey matched only, he claimed, by the Manchester and Liverpool derbies.

Amid the procedural matters and financial reports was a reflection of CONIFA’s many successes over 2019: CONIFA’s new tournament for footballers with disabilities, the CONIFA No Limits European Football Cup in Monaco, the CONIFA sportsbet.io EFC in Artsakh, and the substantial growth in membership across Asia, the Americas and Oceania.

Today, CONIFA is a global family of 58 member associations representing 409 million people. It is entirely volunteer-run, built atop the passion and commitment of its members, friends and supporters.

But the job of the AGM was to look forward to CONIFA’s future. Speaking to the delegates, Per-Anders’ asserted that “CONIFA exists to serve its members – you are CONIFA.”

To meet this assertion, he asked the members for their own suggestions for CONIFA’s direction over the next few years. Putting their heads together, they sent a clear message: CONIFA should work to become a more inclusive, transparent organisation that balances its ethical and moral imperative with laws and regulations.

Suggestions were raised about carbon offsetting and reducing CONIFA’s impact on the environment, promoting women’s football, and launching more tournaments outside of Europe.

As it grows, CONIFA faces both challenges and opportunities. The discussions that took place at the AGM expressed a shared desire to meet these challenges with a more future-facing, internationalist and inclusive outlook.

As evidence of that growth and expansion, Mapuche, Rapa Nui, Hawaii, West Papua, Crimea and Elba Island were officially confirmed as members of CONIFA, significantly increasing its range in South America, North America, Asia and Europe.

The long-serving General Secretary Sascha Düerkop was re-elected to rapturous applause, alongside 14 other Executive Committee members, finalising the day’s events.

CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020: the groups are announced!

The draw for the CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020 took place today (Sunday 26 January) on the beautiful island of Jersey.

Sixteen teams spanning the world’s six permanently inhabited continents will battle it out, in the spirit of football and friendship, to become world champions in Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia.

The draw was made by Lucy Bostritski, from CONIFA lead sponsor Sportsbet.io; Jens Jockel, CONIFA Asia President; Hakan Kuorak, head of the Sapmi Football Association; and Roger Lundback, CONIFA Global Referee Director.

Group A: Parishes of Jersey, Panjab, Kurdistan, Chagos Islands

Group B: Karpatalya, Western Armenia, Tamil Eelam, Kabylia

Group C: Mapuche, Matabeleland, Kernow, Australian First Nations

Group D: South Ossetia, Cascadia, United Koreans in Japan, Darfur United

With four teams – Parishes of Jersey, Mapuche, Kernow and Australian First Nations – making their debut in a CONIFA tournament, the World Football Cup is destined to be a great occasion.

CONIFA and lead sponsors Sportsbet.io look forward to welcoming all players, coaches and support staff from all competing football associations to the tournament – and we look forward to welcoming fans from across the globe to celebrate football, culture, and friendship.

As a final note, we would like to thank Parishes of Jersey, Visit Jersey and the Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa for hosting the CONIFA 2020 AGM, where the draw for the 2020 World Football Cup took place.

CONIFA in Jersey: AGM news and activities

Here’s what to expect as CONIFA heads to Jersey for its AGM

A new decade signals new challenges and new opportunities for CONIFA and its members, and the way ahead for the footballing body will come under the microscope at its upcoming Annual General Meeting in Jersey’s Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa on 25 and 26 January 2020.

With a 10-year anniversary for the organisation approaching in 2023, the 2020 AGM will take a look at what lies ahead for CONIFA, with a 2020-23 activity plan to be discussed by those who make their way to the Channel Island at the end of this month.

The seven years so far have seen remarkable process for CONIFA, with a number of memorable footballing tournaments bringing together members from across the world to celebrate their association with CONIFA, and the community that has arose from it.

And, as 2020 gets into gear, the attentions of many CONIFA members will be on the upcoming World Football Cup, due to take place in the Republic of North Macedonia. Further plans for the summer tournament will be discussed in Jersey, along with the all-important group stage draw, as the teams’ route to the final and the much-sought after silverware becomes clearer.

The tournament in North Macedonia will be the second to be sponsored by lead partner Sportsbet.io and the evolution of CONIFA and the organisation’s progress in 2019 in developing commercial partnerships will be celebrated at the AGM.

As CONIFA’s profile continues to grow, then so does interest in becoming a member and the AGM will see its existing members welcome the newest groups into the CONIFA organisation, with new members such as Hawai’i, Mapuche, Rapa Nui and West Papua all due to be added to the burgeoning list of FAs around the world.

In addition, continental committees will hold meetings at the AGM, and CONIFA’s Women’s division will also be meeting at the AGM for the first time.

All the important information and documentation on this year’s AGM can be found here. And we’ll be live Tweeting and posting from the AGM on all the important decisions taken over the weekend, as well as live streaming the EFC draw on 27th January via Mycujoo.

The AGM is being held with the support of Parishes of Jersey FC, Visit Jersey and the Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa. If you are a journalist who would like to attend the CONIFA AGM, please email press@conifa.org

A year on – CONIFA celebrates its first ever No Limits tournament!

Exactly a year ago this weekend, CONIFA saw the first ever No Limits continental tournament take place in the Principality of Monaco. This was the first ever tournament for disabled football teams held by CONIFA, and four teams – County of Nice, Monaco Special Olympics, Padania, Sardinia took to the pitch at the Stade des Moneghetti on 11-13 January 2019 to play for the honour of becoming No Limits European Champions.

After the matches concluded, Monaco were crowned champions, with every team believing in the tournament motto ‘so everyone can play’ over the weekend.

Roger Lundbäck, CONIFA Global Referee Director, who officiated at the tournament, remembered the weekend fondly. “This was really a great tournament, with lots of passion and friendship between the teams and us referees. It was a memory for life – we really enjoyed being there.”

Jason Heaton, former CONIFA Commercial Director, also commented. “Working on No Limits was a pinnacle for me personally; it really showed what we we’re capable of within CONIFA. Alberto and his team showed great vision in setting up this tournament, one everyone can be proud of.”

Elisa Trecastagne, CONIFA referee, agreed. “I remember with great pleasure my participation as a referee at the No Limits tournament. I hope it’s just the beginning… I hope one day we can expand the number of participants to create a CONIFA No Limits world championship.”

And Alberto Rischio, CONIFA European President and the founder of No Limits, said: “It was exciting to be able to see 60 football players with different disabilities playing football. A year on, we would like to thank all the CONIFA staff and participating federations for taking part and supporting the teams so well. We thank sponsors Powergrass and EST Car Care Products for their support, too. No Limits has changed CONIFA, and we hope to see No Limits tournaments in Asia, Africa, Oceania and America as well!”

CONIFA is now working to set up the next edition of No Limits and is looking for new hosts and sponsors. If you are interested in getting involved in the No Limits tournament, please email European General Secretary Piotr Podlewski on gensec.europe@conifa.org – and watch this space for more news!

A perfect 10 for Tamil Eelam

West Papua score 2 to Tamil Eelam’s 10 in The Hague

West Papua’s second international match in two months saw them take on Tamil Eelam in The Hague on 21 December 2019, on a day more suited to sitting at home with your feet up than watching a CONIFA World Football Cup qualifier.

Only around 20 hardy souls turned up in time to watch the early kick-off, and they were rewarded for their presence when Tamil Eelam took the lead with less than a minute gone, Senthuran Uthayasuthan heading in a cross from the left at the far post.

Tamil Eelam wasted no time in attempting to double their advantage, with Nirunthan Sivananthan and Ninon Pasharajeshdavan coming close before Uthayasuthan struck again after eight minutes, running on to a cheeky chip over the West Papuan defence before, in one movement, chesting the ball upwards and heading it over the onrushing goalkeeper and into the empty net.

West Papua continued to face intense pressure from Tamil Eelam, and were fortunate not to fall further behind as shots continued to rain in on Bobbie Burger’s goal; Sharavarnaan Uthayasuthan shrugged off a challenge from a defender and curled in a shot which only just went the wrong side of the crossbar, and then Steven Sacayaradj unleashed a free kick from 25 yards out which was spectacularly kept out by Burger.

West Papua finally had a shot on goal after 24 minutes, when Miguel Lantveld’s free kick from just outside the left-hand angle of the penalty area flew inches over the bar. On the half hour, teammate Malvie Savage had a good chance to put his team on the scoreboard when he was presented with a good chance inside the box; he spurned it by badly snatching at the ball, and sending it high and wide of the Tamil Eelam goal. Coling Scintje almost managed to do what his two teammates failed to do – score – but he would not have known much about it, as he was on the end of a clearance from a Tamil Eelam defender, which ballooned off him and almost into the right-hand top corner of the net.

The West Papuans were enjoying their best spell of the match so far, and deservedly scored after 37 minutes. A lovely goal it was, too; a precise through ball was met at full speed by Rudi Geil de la Guz, and he proceeded to deftly chip the ball over Jerome Marusicin and into the bottom corner to shouts of joy from everyone in the West Papua technical area.

Five minutes later, it was the Tamil Eelam support’s turn to make some noise when Niranthan Sivananthan picked up the ball from a corner kick, and his shot flew straight and true through a packed penalty area into the top corner to make it 3-1. It was a goal of real quality, and it was followed by two more in the space of a minute right before half time.

A flowing move down the right involving Mayooran Chelliah and Sivananthan led to the latter nipping in at the near post and toe-poking the ball past Berger, and, seconds later, Senthuran Uthayasuthan completed his hat-trick by leaving a defender in his wake as he burst into the penalty area before side-footing the ball under Berger for his hat-trick and his side’s fifth goal.

The second half began with both teams showing a fair amount of attacking intent before normal service was resumed in the 51st minute when Uthayasuthan struck yet again after receiving a delightful pass which threaded through the West Papua defence, releasing him into reams of space; he ran on to stroke the ball past the substitute goalkeeper from 15 yards out.

Teammate Nirunthan Sivananthan was still hunting his hat-trick, and he came close to claiming it when his shot from the left-hand side of the area flashed across goal and just wide of the far post. But a seventh goal did follow, just a few moments later; a deftly-taken free-kick floated into the West Papua box and was chested down by Steven Sacayaradjy, who was standing unmolested in a crowded penalty area. He wasted no time in half-volleying the ball into the back of the net via the underside of the bar.

The tempo of the game slowed considerably as both teams made substitution after substitution, with West Papua using a rotation system which saw players being substituted only to reappear on the pitch a matter of minutes later. In between times, Kasthuran Chelliah’s dangerous low cross was centimetres in front of Vithurshan Vigneswan’s frantic lunge with the goalkeeper stranded.

Mayooran Chelliah, who was a member of the Tamil Eelam squad which took part at the 2018 World Football Cup, scored Tamil Eelam’s eighth from the penalty spot with 20 minutes left after Sharavarnaan Sivananthan was felled in the penalty area by Waikuma Peintury; Sivananthan’s penalty just evaded the reach of the substitute goalkeeper and arrowed into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

The goals kept coming, but West Papua did not give up, and Geil de la Guz began a personal battle with Tamil Eelam goalkeeper Marojan Srirajan which lasted for most of the last quarter of an hour. Srirajan was in the right place at the right time to deal with de la Guz’s rasping free kick which parted the Tamil Eelam defensive wall.

The duo’s duel was interrupted by a counter-attack which resulted in a ball into the West Papua penalty area which found Kasthuran Chelliah clear, but he stumbled as he was about to shoot and ended up scuffing the ball wide.

Geil de la Guz then had the chance to add to his side’s goal tally following a coming together of his teammate and a Tamil Eelam defender in the latter’s penalty area after 80 minutes, which resulted in referee Kees Ekelmann pointing to the spot. Unfortunately for West Papua, Geil de la Guz saw his penalty saved by Srirajan.

West Papua did grab a second goal three minutes later, but it will be a goal that Srirajan will prefer to forget. Kila Toilaila’s shot was delivered at a perfect height for Srirajan to make a fairly routine save, but the Tamil Eelam custodian contrived to fumble the ball and could only watch as it looped over him and dropped under the crossbar and over the line.

West Papua continued to press, but Tamil Eelam counter attacked and were awarded a penalty for handball with Samuel Taria lying prone at the other end needing treatment for a wrist injury. Thomas Thevesahayam slotted home the spot-kick, leaving the goalkeeper static. Geil de la Guz went on a run on the left-hand side, cut into the Tamil Eelam area and beat a defender with the tidiest of shimmies before curling the ball past Srirajan.

The ball beat the goalkeeper, but it came off the inside of the post, much to Geil de la Guz’s dismay, and this was compounded a minute or so later when Mayooran Chelliah broke down the right-hand side on a counter attack, performed a one-two and crossed the ball in to namesake Kasthuran, who beat a defender on the edge of the six-yard box before cutting inside and firing the ball into the back of the net to bring up a perfect 10 for Tamil Eelam just prior to Ekelmann blowing the final whistle.

It was an accomplished display from the Tamil Eelam side, who were the better team for most of the 90 minutes, and a performance that followed on from their 5-0 demolition of East Turkistan in Paris seven days earlier. West Papua may have conceded 10 goals, but it was a vast improvement on their display against East Turkistan, when they lost by eight goals to two; they were much more coherent, they never let their heads drop despite the mounting goal tally against them, and they created more chances. Positives for both sides after 90 minutes, then, but the points went to Tamil Eelam.

Teams:
WEST PAPUA: 1 Bobbie BURGER (1 A N OTHER), 2 DAVID, 3 Stefanus SAPIOPER (15 Samuel TARIA), 7 Miguel LANTVELD, 19 Mansonai AP, 10 Jassin AKOUDAD (14 Coling SCINTJE), 12 Rudy GEIL DE LA GUZ (20 Kila TOILAILA), 17 Malvic SAVAGE (25 REVELINO), 21 Waikuma PENTURY, 22 Dennis BOATENG, 24 Lionel GIATHO

TAMIL EELAM: 1 Jerome MARUSICIN (29 Marajan SRIRARJAN), 2 Ninon PASHARAJESUDAVAN, 3 Sharavarnaan UTHAYASUTHAN (14 Virashan ANANDARAJAH), 6 Steven SACAYARADJ (9 Kasthuran CHELLIAH), 7 Mayooran CHELLIAH, 13 Sharavarnaan SIVANANTHAN, 15 Keerthihan KALAIALAGAN, 16 Nirunthan SIVANANTHAN, 18 Senthuran UTHAYASUTHAN (12 Vithurshan VIGNESWAN), 20 Kisanthan NAGARASA, 21 Thomas THEVASAHAYAM

The 16 teams going to the 2020 CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020 – revealed!

With the news that the CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020 will be taking place between 30 May-7 June 2020 in Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia, CONIFA is delighted to announce that the following teams have qualified for the tournament.

Africa
Matabeleland
Kabylia
Darfur
Western Sahara

Asia
Tamil Eelam
Panjab
United Koreans in Japan

Europe
South Ossetia
Western Armenia
Kernow
Parishes of Jersey
Karpatalya

North America
Cascadia

Oceania
Australian First Nations

South America
Mapuche

Global ticket
Chagos Islands

There is a full reserve list of teams in case any of the qualified teams can no longer attend the 2020 World Football Cup. This list is also dependent on each team paying its CONIFA membership fee by the deadline, and signing a tournament contract, so may be subject to change.

More information about the qualification system and how the 16 teams qualified will follow in due course. CONIFA looks forward to welcoming all our qualified teams to the 2020 Sportsbet.io World Football Cup to Skopje in six month’s time!

This article has been amended on 4 January 2020 to correct the qualification list. The list mistakenly included Ellan Vannin as a European qualified team, which was incorrect. Parishes of Jersey has correctly qualified for the 2020 World Football Cup.

CONIFA is seeking new board members across various departments for immediate placement

CONIFA’s Executive Committee is seeking to appoint a minimum of 3-4 new Executive Committee members to ensure we have the capacity and skills to oversee the next phase of our work in 2020 and 2021; to include a financial director, a legal director, a commercial director and a sponsorship director.

The roles are unpaid, voluntary positions. Reasonable travel expenses are paid.

Board members are expected to attend 10-12 board meetings via Skype per year, but also to participate in the life of the organisation between board meetings, advising various other CONIFA departments and acting in an ambassadorial role for CONIFA.

Board meetings are currently held weekday evenings (CET) via Skype.

Positions are advertised for a period of 2 years (term may be renewed) and would need to be agreed by the Executive Committee. Successful applicants will be voted into the roles by the Executive Committee at the next CONIFA AGM, taking place in Jersey in January 2020.

 

About the roles:
We are seeking to recruit a number of board members, and expect that different candidates will bring a range of skills and experience to CONIFA from the attributes listed.

We are also looking to recruit those who are not usually represented on executive boards; we want to make CONIFA more diverse, so applications are open to under-represented groups, including women and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

 

About CONIFA

CONIFA, the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, is the football federation for all associations outside FIFA.

It’s a global acting non-profit organization that supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories.

CONIFA was founded on the 7th of June 2013, and organized his first World Football Cup in June 2014 in Ostersund, Sweden.

CONIFA aims to build bridges between people, nations, minorities and isolated regions all over the world through friendship, culture and the joy of playing football. CONIFA works for the development of affiliated members and is committed to fair play and the eradication of racism.

To find out more, go to conifa.org

 

General

  • Commitment to the objectives of CONIFA
  • Willingness to act as an ambassador for CONIFA
  • Willingness to fulfil the duties and standards of conduct required of a board member of an organisation that is global and represents over 300 million members
  • Understanding of equality and diversity issues

 

Experience

  • Experience of finance and fund accounting (for finance director role).
  • Fundraising (e.g. from individuals, partnerships with business and/or society organisations, funding groups and/or sales of goods and services) (for commercial/sponsorship role)
  • Working in a sporting/football environment
  • Working for or with the following: managers and boards in all sectors & relevant structures e.g. financial organisations, legal organisations, media organisations, sporting groups, commercial roles, sales and marketing roles, sponsorship roles; event and project management roles
  • Developing business models in voluntary sporting organisations comparable to CONIFA
  • Legal qualifications and experience in commercial, regulatory or sports law

 

Expertise & knowledge

  • Fundraising or seeking sponsorship for a group like CONIFA
  • Financial management and/or experience managing budgets and P+L
  • Sales management experience
  • Legal experience
  • Sports sponsorship or commercial knowledge
  • Events or project management knowledge

 

Skills

  • Ability to understand and interrogate financial reports
  • Strategic planning skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Management / project management skills
  • Commercial and / or sponsorship and partnership experience
  • Ability to operate as part of a team

 

How to apply

Please submit a CV and a covering letter by Friday 10 January 2020, stating which role and why you wish to be considered for this, to CONIFA General Secretary Sascha Duerkop on generalsecretary@conifa.org

Your covering letter should show how you meet each of the relevant requirements in the person specification. We will interview for the roles by Skype call with existing board members as soon as possible. Successful applicants will be invited to the CONIFA AGM in Jersey on Saturday 25 January (this travel would be at your own expense, so if this is not possible, we will speak with you on this date by Skype call instead).

6 reasons to travel to North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours!

Always wanted to go behind the iron curtain and visit North Korea? Never thought you’d be able to? Well now you can… thanks to CONIFA’s official tour partners, Young Pioneer Tours – and here are 6 reasons why you should go!

1. Check out a football match in the 150,000-seater Rungrado May Day Stadium

North Korea takes its football very seriously – it’s the most popular sport in the country. In Pyongyang you can visit a football college, play a match against locals (see No2!) and watch either domestic, continental club or international matches in both men’s and women’s football. In June 2020, CONIFA’s official tour partners Young Pioneer Tours will be running a specialist Football Tour to watch North Korea take on Turkmenistan in a World Cup qualifier within the immense 150,000-seater Rungrado May Day Stadium – the perfect way to soak up the locals’ pride for their North Korean team.

And what’s more, if you sign up for this tour, just mention the code CONIFA-YPT when you do so and you’ll receive a special €50 discount!

2. Head to Pyongyang Football School, then play 5-a-side with the locals

One of the nicest things about Young Pioneer Tours’ trips to North Korea is that you get to hang out with the locals in Pyongyang. Not only will you go to Pyongyang Football School, which specialises in the sport, and chat to the students, but you’ll also see them playing football (class schedules allowing). In addition to that, you’ll get to pull on your football boots (don’t forget to pack them) and head out to play a 5-a-side match with locals in a park. It’s a great way to get to know the people who live in this mysterious city.

3. Run the Pyongyang Marathon

Yes, you read that right! Young Pioneer Tours can help you run the Pyongyang Marathon, a dream for any runner. You’ll finish the 26-mile course in the Kim II Sung Stadium, cheered home by the locals, and get a certificate once you’ve completed the run. And if you don’t fancy covering quite such a lot of ground, you can also apply to run in the half marathon, mini marathon or the 5km race – or just watch from the stands, if running really isn’t your thing.

4. Sample the local beer in Pyongyang’s micro breweries

If you’ve not associated North Korea with beer, then prepare to be surprised. Pyongyang is a real hub of microbrewery magic and Young Pioneer Tours will show you around the city’s watering holes. There are plenty of iconic bars where you can sample the different beers available, and wash down all that spicy bibimbap.

5. Be wowed by the Mass Games

Wow, this is a real spectacle – one definitely not to be missed. Over 100,000 people take part in the North Korean Mass Games, which feature synchronised dancing and gymnastics in the giant May Day Stadium. This colourful and stunning performance tells a stylised story of North Korea, with giant ‘mosaic’ style pictures being held up by the performers, and flowers and suns representing different parts of the country’s history.

The Mass Games are in the Guinness Book of Records for a reason – as the world’s largest gymnastic display – and will be a highlight of any tour to the country

6. Brush up on your Korean language skills

If you want to immerse yourself in North Korean life, this is the tour for you. You’ll spend a month in Pyongyang, studying Korean at a university school in the morning, before heading out in the afternoon on sightseeing trips. As you’re in the country for such a long time, you’ll also get under the skin of North Korean life, with the opportunity to visit locals’ homes, go to the cinema, and head to the beach for a swim. Oh, and you’ll be able to speak decent Korean by the end of your tour, too!

This is sponsored content, created in partnership with Young Pioneer Tours.

New CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020 location announced

CONIFA can today confirm that Skopje, in the Republic of North Macedonia, will play host to the CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020.

Skopje is the capital of the Republic of North Macedonia, with a population of about 500,000 people. North Macedonia lies in south-east Europe, bordered by Albania to the west, Greece to the south, Bulgaria to the east, and Kosovo and Serbia to the north.

The tournament will consist of 16 teams; the qualification period for the 2020 World Football Cup ends in December 2019. Sportsbet.io is the premier sponsor for the CONIFA World Football Cup.

The draw for the tournament will be held at the CONIFA Annual General Meeting in Jersey on the weekend of 24-26 January 2020.

The tournament will take place from 30 May-7 June 2020 and more information will be released in due course.

CONIFA General Secretary Sascha Duerkop, said: “We are delighted to announce that Skopje will be the location of the next CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup. It’s a fantastic city with great facilities and we look forward to heading there next summer to watch some fantastic football.”

Jens Jockel, CONIFA Asia President, has visited Skopje to assess its suitability for the World Football Cup. “Skopje has some wonderful facilities and will welcome visitors with its world-famous Macedonian hospitality. If you’ve not associated Macedonia with football before, you will after the World Football Cup 2020! We will look forward to bringing people to the country, and welcoming visitors from around the world to enjoy this fantastic tournament.”

Aloha to CONIFA’s newest member – Hawai‘i!

Hawai‘i is an archipelago made up of eight major islands located within the Polynesian region of Oceania.

Established as a constitutional monarchy in 1840, the Hawaiian Kingdom became the first non-Western country to achieve full recognition as an independent state and member of the family of nations.

Hui Kanaka Pōwāwae (Hawaiian Football Federation) is the first national organization to govern associated football in all its forms within the Hawaiian Islands; and is also responsible for appointing the management of the men’s, women’s, and youth national football teams.

HFF joined CONIFA on November 28, 2019 – in celebration of Lā Kū‘oko‘a (Hawaiian Independence Day) – commemorating the formal recognition of the Hawaiian Kingdom by Great Britain, Ireland, and France on November 28, 1843.

This is the first international membership Hawai‘i has taken up since the Universal Postal Union in 1882 – and CONIFA welcomes the federation to the organisation.

CONIFA is launching its women’s football strategy – and we need our member FAs to get involved!

This year has been pivotal for women’s football – and CONIFA is striving to capitalise on this momentum in a way that not only leads and develops the game in an ethical and responsible way, but also continues and elevates the messages of solidarity and unity that typify the women’s game.

This strategy prioritises good governance, strengthening the capacity of girls and women’s football development across all CONIFA members, creating access and opportunities for women to compete with professionalism and respect, and help create support for all members through networks and platforms of solidarity across the globe.

With this in mind, CONIFA is inviting all FAs to join our development team in developing the women’s game across CONIFA together!

CONIFA will be hosting a women’s football meeting at the AGM in January 2020, to share with everyone our long-term plan and work together towards achieving our goals. We want to meet our members, find where you are at and tailor our development initiatives around your unique needs and challenges.

In preparation for the AGM and to ensure our development strategy aligns with our members’ unique challenges and needs, we want to meet our members and understand where you are at and what you need help with.

We are inviting all members to join the conversation in the following ways:

1/ Submit a video introducing your team: we want to hear from you about your federation, women’s team, stories, unique challenges, goals, and biggest areas of need for support in developing your women’s football goals

2/ Join us on a member’s call: we want to connect and hear about your goals in 2020 and how we can support you moving forward.

– Save the dates: Wednesday and Thursday 4-5 December and 11-12 December 2019
– Doodle poll:
 https://doodle.com/poll/dxctvsith7nzmzr9 – pick your best day and time to connect with us.

3/ Join us at the AGM: please send a member of your FA who will engage with the women’s development side and meet us in person to share your story, development goals, and women’s football ideas – what do you want to see from CONIFA?

4/ Make us a video and send it in:

  • Please submit: by 6th December to womensfootball@conifa.org
  • Please include:
    • Who you are and what makes your federation unique
    • Women’s football status, challenges, support needs and goals for next two years
    • Your women’s unique stories
  • Please create:
    • Videos can be made with your mobile phones
    • Videos should be no longer than 10 minutes long

Please note – we will use these video submissions to work on partnerships and sponsors for women’s development, so please share your story for the world to hear!

Goal: the purpose of this development opportunity is to assist members with building a foundation for growth in order to sustain development programs and future participation in competitive events.

Contact: if you have any questions at all, please reach out to the CONIFA Development Team at: womensfootball@CONIFA.org We look forward to hearing from you!

The Human Rights Cup 2019 comes to life in Cape Town, South Africa from 1-10 December 2019

In recognition and celebration of the United Nations’ annual global campaign to mark International Human Rights Day (10 December), the second edition of the annual Human Rights Cup will be held at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa from 1-10 December 2019.

The historic inaugural Human Rights Cup 2018 was held in December in Johannesburg at the Bosmont Stadium, South Africa, and was a great success. The official local organising partner for the 2019 edition is uLoyiko, based in Cape Town.

uLoyiko is a youth-led organisation that seeks to promote human rights through theatre and the arts.

 

Seventy-one years after its adoption by the UN General Assembly, the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are as relevant and timeless as ever. Whilst the UDHR continues to be a source of inspiration at national, continental and global level, this is a challenging time for human rights around the world. The upcoming United Nations International Human Rights Day is an opportunity to reaffirm the universal values and enduring principles enshrined in the Declaration, mobilise people around the world, and take stock of human rights today. The principle of standing up for human rights, and the notion that human rights abuses anywhere are the concern of people everywhere, is an immensely powerful and inspiring ideal for the 21st century.

Busani Sibindi, the founder and chairperson of the Human Rights Cup, commented that the tournament “will appeal to a broad audience in Africa and all over the world in a language the world understands – the universal language of football. Football brings people together across boundaries, cultures and religions to promote peace, tolerance and understanding.’’ Sibindi also added: “Our football players are a new generation of human rights champions and will play a central role in the campaign. Via the Human Rights Cup, they help promote understanding of how the Universal Declaration empowers us all, and encourage engagement in ways that each of us can stand up for rights, every day.”

The Human Rights Cup brings together a group of inspirational football teams that represent the power of hope for a better future and human rights, as well as the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities for health, education and social-inclusion goals. In particular, gender equality is at the heart of human rights and United Nations’ values. The 2019 edition will host 12 teams in all; six teams in the men’s category and six teams in the women’s category. Teams that are expected to grace the 2019 edition are:

* Blue Bird Ladies FC, based in Alexandra Township, Johannesburg. The team is using soccer to empower and develop young girls in the township The Blue Bird Ladies are the current champions of the cup in the women’s category.

* Blue Bird Ladies FC will be joined by a team from the same community, the Malandela Mighty Heroes Football Club, which plies its trade in the third tier of the South African league system. The team is also holding champions of the 2018 edition, after defeating the Matabeleland men’s team on penalties.

* The Matabeleland representative teams will also return to contend for the titles again after losing the finals on penalties to the teams from Alexandria. The Matabeleland teams use football to rebuild their community who, after decades, have not yet healed from decades of oppression and genocide by the late Mugabe regime.

* Debuting in 2019 is the Livingstone Youth Football Academy Ladies, based in Zambia, who are using sport to lift girls from poverty and support their realisation of human rights as well as community development.

* Also expected to make it for the first time is a women’s team from Somalia – the first of its kind. Should they make it, the Golden Girls Sports Centre team will be an interesting addition to the tournament, as they would play all their matches covered in their traditional dress. Beyond all cultural barriers, the team has managed to stay together and excel in playing football and reiterating the need to empower everyone.

 

Today, at least 10 million people around the world are denied a nationality and statelessness remains a huge problem. Members of marginalised communities and minority groups are often victims of discrimination and exclusion. The teams that participated in the inaugural Human Rights Cup are a positive example of overcoming challenges of marginalisation. In times of war and post-conflict, football can provide youth with a sense of hope. Football can help with programmes focused on peace and reconciliation, and can help rebuild and inspire communities.

Furthermore, there is a growing contribution to the realisation of sport and human rights. Recently, the Human Rights Council held the 2018 UN Social Forum to focus on the possibilities of using sport to promote human rights for all and to strengthen universal respect for them. The Human Rights Cup will also provide a platform for the global moment of sport and human rights.

The cup still does not have a major sponsor, and the international management committee appeals to all human rights champions and well-wishers to come and support this worthwhile initiative. The cup is a growing opportunity for sponsors to benefit from major news and media coverage. It is expected that, as it grows, the event will appeal to media all over the world, including television, newspapers, and magazines, digital and social media. All press releases and publicity for the event will give huge branding and recognition to the sponsors; in addition 2019 sponsors will receive recognition through all marketing and tournament materials including ticketing, advertising, public relations and signage and social and digital media.

On the special occasion of the annual celebrations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 2nd Annual Human Rights Cup in South Africa is a unique opportunity to inspire and unite the people of Africa and the world to #standup4humanrights through the beautiful game.

For more details, follow www.humanrightscup.org  and the Twitter handle @HumanRightsCup for updates.

Email info@humanrightsccup.org for more sponsorship information.

To support  the initiative, please donate here.

PRESS RELEASE: CONIFA ANNOUNCES YOUNG PIONEER TOURS AS OFFICIAL TOUR PARTNER

The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) has today announced another exciting partnership, with Young Pioneer Tours signing a one-year deal to become the football federation’s Official Tour Partner.

2019 has been a year of progress for CONIFA, with the growth of their women’s football programme, along with a hugely successful Sportsbet.io European Football Cup tournament taking place in Artsakh, won by South Ossetia.

 

And 2020 will get off to a bright start, thanks to the new partnership with Young Pioneer Tours.

Sascha Duerkop, CONIFA General Secretary said: “We are delighted to team up with Young Pioneer Tours in 2020.

“We were very excited to hear about their work in taking people all around the world, and their ethos was very similar to ours, so the partnership makes a lot of sense.

“We are sure that our CONIFA followers will make good use of their services and that it will be the start of a successful working relationship.”

Young Pioneer Tours specialise in tours to North Korea, a host of unrecognised countries and other worldwide destinations at budget prices.

They combine the best guides in the industry with expert local knowledge and contacts to ensure their trips are unparalleled experiences for adventurous tourists.

And Gareth Johnson of Young Pioneer Tours is looking forward to working with CONIFA, adding: “I personally love football and travel to obscure places, so CONIFA are a dream partner for us. I am sincerely excited about us both achieving great things from this partnership.”

– ENDS –

Media Information
For more information on CONIFA and its work to support football around the globe, contact Cassie Whittell, Director of Media & Communications on media@conifa.org

For more information on Young Pioneer Tours, contact john@youngpioneertours.com

East Turkistan v West Papua match report

There is an old saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and East Turkistan began their international footballing journey on the front foot on Saturday afternoon with a comprehensive 8-2 victory against West Papua at the Sportpark Nieuw Hanenberg in the Dutch city of The Hague.

Although East Turkistan’s squad are drawn from a pool of players based in nine countries across the globe, both teams are essentially based in The Netherlands, so it made sense for the fixture to be organised at the home of HVCV Quick, a team with its own proud footballing history – it has one national championship and four KNVB Bekers to its name.

Right from the off, East Turkistan were in control, and although they missed a couple of good chances early on – Ripkat Bilal hitting the post when yards clear inside the penalty-area being the most glaring – Ihtiyar Yusupov’s delightfully-curled free-kick in the eighth minute beat West Papua keeper Romano Kandhai at his left-hand post to put them in front and score his team’s first-ever international goal.

 

Bilal missed another three chances in the next three minutes, the worst of which was when he put Alisher Tashmetov’s cross over the bar from three yards out, and he and East Turkistan were made to pay after 20 minutes when Rudy Gell de la Cruz burst past two defenders in the penalty-area and rifled the ball past Ablet Shemshi to equalise superbly.

At the other end, East Turkistan’s Abdushukur was having his own personal battle with Kandhai, who saved two of his efforts, and it was Kandhai, who, together with the Turkistanians’ profligacy in front of goal, was keeping his side on level terms. But, Abdushukur put his side in front on the half-hour, beating a defender inside the box and slotted the ball into Kandhai’s bottom right-hand corner. It was 3-1 after 36 minutes, Salaydin Tursun strolling into the penalty-area and slotting the ball inder Kandhai.

Three became four three minutes later, when Bilal finally got his goal, being in the right place at the right time to hook the ball into the roof of the net after Ilham Seleyev’s corner came back off the crossbar. Alisher Tashmetov almost made it 5-1, but his rasping shot from the edge of the box flew just wide of Kandhai’s right-hand post. Tashmetov made amends just before the break when he picked up a loose ball on the left, ran on unopposed and unleashed a shot from twenty yards out which flew past the keeper and into the net.

Kandhai started his second half by superbly keeping out a header from the East Turkistan number 6, who entered the fray at half-time, his flying one-handed save being the pick of his many stops of the afternoon. Another couple of chances were missed before East Turkistan finally made it 6-1 on 62 minutes; a corner-kick from the left-hand side made its way to Abduryin on the far side, who swung his boot at the ball from 18 yards out, and it bounced through the defence and beat the hapless Kandhai.

A rash of substitutes, and an awful miss from the Turkistanian number 6, followed before East Turkistan scored their seventh through Yusupov, who beat Kandhai with a forceful shot from a central position just inside the area with an quarter of an hour still to play.

East Turkistan’s substitute was not having the best of days after coming on at half-time, and he missed three golden chances to further increase his side’s lead, the first before Yusupov’s goal, when he outstripped the West Papua defence but shot woefully wide from ten yards out. Then, he did all the hard work himself, winning the ball and running into the area before he ballooned the ball wide with only Kandhai to beat, and he then slammed the ball over the bar and out of the ground when, again, unmarked and in a good position on the right-hand side of the box.

An eighth goal for the Turkistanians did eventually come with four minutes to go, and it was perhaps the only blot on Kandhai’s otherwise impressive stint in goal. Spotting Kandhai well off his line, Elzat Kader let fly with an opportunist shot from the centre-circle which beat the backpedalling goalkeeper, struck the underside of the bar and flew into the back of the net.

West Papua had been playing well for the last ten minutes or so, despite conceding Kader’s goal, and they were rewarded for their persistence with two minutes left after Samuel Taria broke into the penalty-area and gently rolled the ball past East Turkistan goalkeeper Shemshi and into the bottom corner.

It was a brave performance from West Papua, but there was a gulf in class between the two teams, which was perhaps unsurprising as a number of the team do not play football on a regular basis. There is much work to be done, but the will and enthusiasm is there, and improvement will surely come in the next few years. East Turkistan greatly impressed West Papua’s representative Simon Sapopier, who, in spite of the result, hailed the game as a fantastic experience for his side and a springboard for future development and improvement.

On the other hand, it was the perfect introduction to international football for the East Turkistan side, who had been preparing for this day since the ETFA’s inception earlier this year; two of the squad play professionally, whilst the rest of the team play football on a regular basis, and the difference showed. Acting manager Elshat Eslam was delighted with his team’s performance, saying that his team, substitutes included, came together and played as a unit, and played really well. Few who watched the game on Sarurday would disagree.

EAST TURKISTAN: 22 Ablet SHEMSHI, 5 Ilyas ABITOV, 6 Khalid YUSUPOV, 7 Ilham SELEYEV, 8 Alisher TASHMETOV, 9 Ripkat BILAL, 10 Ihtiyar YUSUPOV, 11 Abdushukur ABDURYIN, 14 Elzat KADER, 19 Salaydin TURSUN, 20 Anwar ISMAILOV

SUBSTITUTES: unknown

WEST PAPUA: 1 Romano KANDHAI, 2 Stephanus SAPIOPOR, 3 Sebastian BAME, 4 Waikuma PENTURY, 7 Bep GEIST, 8 Miguel Laatveld, 9 Colin SCINTJE, 10 Samuel TARIA, 11 Kila TUILARLA, 12 Rudy GELL DE LA CRUZ, 23 Ahmad ALITAKOM

SUBSTITUTES: 17 Gatho LIONEL, 21 Jason AKOUDAD

Saint Pierre and Miquelon to build a ground with an artificial pitch and join CONCACAF

The tiny French territory of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, two neighbouring islands just 25km off the Canadian coast, were one of the few places in the world that remained pretty much ignored by international football organisations so far. Football on the archipelago, and of its 6,000 inhabitants, is officially governed by the Ligue de Football de Saint Pierre et Miquelon (LFSPM), which is part of the French Football Federation (FFF). While a local league, with just three teams, has played since 1976, the islanders have rarely played away from their homes. A representative team only featured in the 2010 and 2012 editions of the Coupe de l’Outre Mer, a tournament between all French Overseas Territories formerly played biannually in metropolitan France. A goal difference of 2-78 over seven matches did not particularly lead to an upswing of local football, either.

Lately, however, the FFF seems to be investing more in football on the islands. From 2018-2019, local clubs where integrated into the Coupe de France – the biggest cup competition in France. Saint Pierre and Miquelon thus became the last (populated) territory of France to participate in a national cup. In a remarkable interview with the local TV channel, Samuel Riscagli, who the FFF appointed as a technical advisor for the LFSPM last year, announced his plans for the islands: he is not only planning to raise funds to build a ground with an artificial pitch on the archipelago, but also plans to bring the U13 national team to the Futsal World Cup next February, and join the FIFA continental governing body CONCACAF soon.

After CONCACAF’s affiliation of Bonaire in 2014, only the Dutch islands of Saba and Sint Eustatius, the French territories of Saint Pierre and Miquelon and Saint Barthelemy and the British territory of the Falkland Islands were left out of FIFA-sanctioned football on the double continent. As Saint Barthelemy expressed similar intentions, the two Dutch territories might soon be the last remaining white spots on CONCACAF’s, and ultimately FIFA’s, map of North America and the Caribbean.

Asia committee working to make the first-ever CONIFA Asia Cup a reality…

The CONIFA Asia committee travelled to Malaysia in September, to meet with relevant local stakeholders, as well as visiting and supporting the Rohingya FC team. Rohingya is a CONIFA member who is based in Kuala Lumpur.

The Committee delegation was represented by Jens Jockel, Asia President; Oscar Mussons, Asia General Secretary; and Asher Mulroney, a member of the Asia sponsorship and marketing department.

The main meetings held in the country were focussed on exploring and analysing whether Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia would be able to host the first CONIFA Asia Cup. Among the stakeholders at the meeting were business people, media figures, human rights advocates and sport professionals who felt encouraged by the visit and are positive about the future organisation of the tournament in the country.

Jens Jockel mentioned that he felt optimistic about the local developments achieved so far and believes that “Kuala Lumpur has the potential to be a first-class venue for a CONIFA tournament in every sense.”

Another highlight of the trip was a visit to the Rohingya FC team playing in its regular weekend tournament in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Staff members and players alike were happy to see the CONIFA officials for the second time this year. Local Rohingya teams meet every weekend and play a tournament on a free-of-charge pitch, where they are proud to show off their skills, dressed in some of the kits that CONIFA had donated to them earlier in the year.

Jens Jockel and Oscar Mussons were able to play for 15 minutes for one of the teams, and got a good impression about the technical abilities of the players, but not so much on the irregular conditions of the field!

Oscar Mussons felt that one of the main reasons the Asia Committee decided to explore the possibility of hosting the Asia Cup in Malaysia is due to the fact that the Rohingya FC is located in Kuala Lumpur. “Having an existing team in the country makes a big difference. We not only want to provide them (Rohingya FC) with support and assistance, but we want to make them feel empowered, so that they have the confidence to help us host a top-class international tournament.”

“Playing football makes me feels like nothing else matters”

Meet Sayler W Hla – a member of the Karen FA womens’ team and a skilled football trickster in her own right! Sayler, 19, explains to us why she loves football and – on International Day of the Girl – why playing sport is so important for girls and young women…

CONIFA: Hi Sayler! How did you first start playing football?

Sayler: “I started playing football was when I was 13 years old. I played in a co-ed [mixed] team and I was the only girl who played with all the guys. It was difficult at first because all the other girls were too shy to play at first – but when I started playing, they soon came along and got involved, which I was really happy about!

“My uncle took me to my first game and he also bought me a new set of cleats [studs] that week, which I will always remember.”

C: How did you know you wanted to be a footballer? How did that make you feel?

S: “I wanted to be a football when I was a sixth grader [aged 11]. I worked the hardest that year to make it in to the team at middle school. Unfortunately I didn’t make it and that really made me question if I was good enough – but I didn’t give up.

“I remember still playing in the park for fun while the middle school season was going on because I wanted to play for my school so much. I kept working hard to get a spot on the team. And all that hard work meant I got a starting spot the next year at middle school. That’s when I fell in love with the sport. Even though I made it, I kept working hard because my next step was to make into the varsity team

[first XI]

at high school.

“I kept that mindset throughout my middle school year, so that’s why I was pleased when I was the only 9th Grader [first year at high school] who made the varsity team on my first year. Football made me focus on what my goal was in the sport, so that’s what I love it so much. It makes me feel accomplished.”

C: What is your favourite thing about playing football?

S: “My favorite thing about playing would have to be meeting new people and learning new tricks. Meeting new people makes you a more open-minded person who can see other perspectives. New people teach you new things that you never knew and some can end up being your best friends!

“Learning new tricks is fun and hard – but every time you get it, it makes you so happy and excited that you can finally do it.

“One thing I love more than football is eating chicken wings! If you know me, you’ll know I love, love, love eating wings – but if there’s a soccer game or tournament going on, I’d rather be there or play there… before eating my wings.”

C: How does playing football make you feel?

S: “Playing football makes me feel like nothing else matters at that moment. It makes me let out anger that I’ve been holding inside, and all the stress that I build up. It makes me let go of all the negativity – and after playing, I feel like I’m free from stress, anger and negativity.”

C: What’s the team spirit like when you and your teammates go out on to the field?

S: “What my team – Midwest United – spirit is all about is to never underestimate the other team that we’re facing. I had some players that I played with who doubted themselves before even touching the ball, which really made me upset because I knew they had more in them then they thought. What I do is just tell my teammates to give it all they’ve got and it’s okay to make a mistake while you’re playing. Just go out there, give it your all and you’ll be satisfied. Basically our team spirit is to always be positive… even when there’s a negative outcome.”

C: What does representing Karen FA mean to you?

S: “It means a lot to me because if it wasn’t for the KFA, I probably wouldn’t have any other opportunities to play the game I love so much for my country. Growing up I couldn’t play at clubs because money wasn’t there, but even playing for the Karen tournament each summer builds you up to try other opportunities that are given to you.”

C: Karen FA’s team motto is ‘We play for you’ – what does that mean to you?

S: “The motto ‘We play for you’ doesn’t mean for ourselves or just to show out to our people – but it means we play for the Karen people, people who didn’t have a chance, but now who do. We play for everyone – women, children, men and for gender equality. We want everyone to have the opportunity to play.”

C: Finally, what’s the one thing you would say to other girls who are thinking about playing? What advice would you give to them?

S: “You will always have a chance if you keep working hard. Even if at first you fail, don’t ever give up – just keep focusing on what you can do better. Always have a positive mindset and never be in competition with anyone but yourself. Learn from your peers and teach your peers and you will always have an opportunity waiting for you.”

To find out more about the Karen FA, go to https://karenfa.com/

To find out more about International Day of the Girl, go to https://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/

Working together in The Hague: CONIFA with West Papua and East Turkistan

In August 2019, Asia President Jens Jockel and Member Development Director Paul Watson, headed to The Hague, Netherlands, to meet up with two relatively new CONIFA member teams.

Both West Papua and East Turkistan (formerly named Uyghur) FAs have recently moved their headquarters to the Netherlands, and with this in mind, Jens and Paul were able to spend time with Simon Sapopier, Sophia Sapopier and Jeroen Zandberg from West Papua; and with Elshat Atasoy and Arafat from East Turkistan.

The group met at The Hague Football & Cricket Ground (HV & CV Quick). After a tour round the facilities, discussions took place that covered the possiblility of a friendly being played betwee the two FAs; West Papua’s training plans now they are based in The Hague; and how the East Turkistan team is looking to call up players from across Europe to join its squad. The group also discussed the ‘Freedom Cup’ which took place in Germany in June 2019, which brought together East Turkestan teams from Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and France.

West Papua also discussed becoming a part of CONIFA Asia, rather than Oceania, and the East Turkistan delegation formally requested their name change from Uyghur.

The group also discussed collaborating now they were based in the same country, and all agreed they were excited about the possibility of playing a match against each other in the future!

CONIFA and Somaliland FA: an announcement about the CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020

CONIFA and the Somaliland FA are sorry to announce that the CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020 will no longer take place in Somaliland.

This is due to logistical and technical issues that could not be resolved by the parties involved; the agreement was therefore taken to look for a new venue for the 2020 tournament.

Sascha Duerkop, CONIFA’s general secretary said:

“We are all sorry that we will not be going to the beautiful country of Somaliland in 2020 and playing the World Football Cup there. The decision to change the venue was not one we took lightly.

“We would like to thank the Somaliland government and Somaliland FA for their support over the last months and we hope to work with them again, as we look to bring a CONIFA tournament to Somaliland in the future.”

Ilyas Mohamed, president of the Somaliland FA, said:

“We are truly sad to announce that the CONIFA World Football Cup will not be coming to Somaliland in 2020. But this is the beginning of a journey and certainly not the end. We will continue to work closely with all stakeholders to achieve the dream of hosting a World Football Cup in Somaliland in the very near future.

“We wish to thank the Somaliland government, particularly the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the beautiful people in Somaliland, CONIFA and everyone else who helped us along the way for all their support and hard work.”

A new host and venue will be announced for the CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020 in due course.

CONIFA’s annual general meeting 2020 to be held in Jersey

Events Jersey will welcome the seventh CONIFA AGM to Jersey in January 2020.

In partnership with Parishes of Jersey FC and The Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa, CONIFA and Events Jersey will host over 50 delegates to the island on 25th – 26th January 2020 for the annual general meeting.

Sascha Düerkop, General Secretary of CONIFA, said:

“CONIFA is really looking forward to bringing its annual AGM to Jersey. This is an important event for CONIFA; it is a weekend where we set our priorities for the year ahead and ensure our member FAs have their voices heard as part of our internal governance procedures.

“As well as all the hard work, it is also a chance for CONIFA members to meet each other, share ideas and views, and discuss the prior 12 months. With that in mind, it is important we meet in an environment that fosters this spirit, encourages creative thinking and ensures our members from across the globe get the chance to experience a different cultural viewpoint.

“We have no doubt that Jersey, with its rich history, fantastic cultural opportunities, island traditions and footballing heritage is the perfect place for the 2020 CONIFA AGM to take place. It is the home of one of our teams – Parishes of Jersey Football Club – and we are happy to join them for a fruitful weekend.

“We also look forward to spending time learning more about the island and using it as a base to plan the next 12 months of CONIFA activities. Thank you to Events Jersey for hosting us and for making us feel so welcome!”

James Blower, President of Parishes of Jersey FC, commented:

“I am thrilled that the CONIFA Executive Committee voted to hold their AGM here in Jersey in January 2020. This is a testament to the hard work from the great team we have been involved with in Parishes of Jersey FC and everyone at Events Jersey, who have been enormously supportive and recognised the benefits for Jersey from our CONIFA membership. We look forward to showcasing both the island of Jersey and our potential as hosts of a European Football Cup to their Executive.”

On behalf of Events Jersey, Economic Development Tourism, Sport and Culture Minister, Senator Lyndon Farnham welcomed CONIFA to the island:

“As we develop Jersey’s events portfolio, we are delighted to host CONIFA’s members for the annual AGM. Welcoming events such as this help address the island’s seasonality challenge and align with Jersey’s Destination Plan. By delivering experiences that generate and create lasting memories for the visitors, we can demonstrate the island’s sporting credentials and pitch Jersey as a prospective host location for future sporting events”.

CONIFA looks forward to welcoming all delegates to Jersey in January 2020!

For more information on Jersey, go here: https://www.jersey.com/explorers-wanted

CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020: announcement

It is with regret that CONIFA has to announce that the CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020 will no longer be held in Somaliland.

This is due to logistical and hosting issues in regards the tournament. A search is currently being undertaken for a replacement host.

Further information will follow.

Darfur United takes on Cascadia on road to the 2020 World Football Cup

Darfur United suited up in an away match against Cascadia AFF on Saturday 27 July in Kent, Washington. It was the first-ever match between CONIFA members on North American soil – and the first CONIFA match for the USA-based Darfur United players called up to the roster for the game.

The DU players traveled from across the country to participate. The team was prepared to face a top-level CONIFA team, in preparation for their journey to the CONIFA World Football Cup in 2020. It was a perfect opportunity for coach Mark Hodson and the Darfur United staff to assess players that are striving to make the 2020 roster, joining a strong core of players based in Europe.

DU created several dangerous chances on the counter-attack in the early minutes, with solid opportunities from the attacking unit of Hany Ramadan, Iessa Ramadan, Souradjadine Abdoulaye and Mahajub Adam.

Cascadia opened the scoring on the nine-minute mark, after a Darfur United turnover in the defending third of the field. Cascadia netted three more goals before the end of the half as a result of DU turnovers in defending areas and a penalty kick after a group of players challenged for possession of a loose ball in the box.

Despite the goal differential at the half, Darfur United was well prepared for Cascadia’s attack from fullbacks in the width of the field and showed bright moments in transition and individual attacking on the wings.

The second half’s pace did not slow, as the DU team maintained high pressure when opportunities were presented, often beginning with Cascadia turnovers due to strong defensive efforts from Abdulrazik Abdulkhalik. Near the 70th minute, a counter-attack led by Iessa Ramadan resulted in a corner kick that was put in the back of the net by DU’s Khalid Abdulkhalik. It was Darfur United’s first CONIFA goal in North America and Khalid’s first goal for the squad.

Cascadia added four more goals to the score sheet in the second half after a second penalty kick was awarded and a handful DU turnovers in dangerous areas. Goalkeeper Souleymane Adam recorded several saves on the match, including a tip over the crossbar after a well-struck shot from Cascadia’s right side.

Darfur United Head Coach, Mark Hodson provided his thoughts after the match: “We’re thankful to Cascadia for providing us with the opportunity to play an official CONIFA game here in the US and for being such gracious hosts. This is an ongoing journey for the Darfur United men’s team and allowed us the opportunity to give a high-level experience to a very young and new group of players. Some of these players will join our main DU squad over the upcoming months, as we prepare for Somaliland 2020 and we are very excited to move forward with what we believe will be the most competitive and exciting Darfur United team to date. There’s much more to come from this team.”

Darfur United will continue its preparations for the World Football Cup over the year, looking to provide players with additional opportunities to face the best in their league and develop their play as a unit.

Cascadia take the honours in an 8-1 win

Cascadia ran out the resounding victors in their friendly against Darfur United on Saturday 27 July on a day to remember for players Hamza Haddadi and Tyler Bjork.

The duo both struck a hat-trick in the 8-1 victory, with Bjork’s treble coming in an impressive second-half display for the Evergreen Premier League’s all-time top scorer.

Cascadia started the game somewhat under the cosh but, having got their noses in front nine minutes in, they didn’t look back.

The opener came from Haddadi, who became the first Cascadia player to score on two different continents, following his goals in the CONIFA World Football Cup in London in 2018.

Beau Blanchard made it two with a calm finish a little later on. The hosts were beginning to exert their authority, with another couple of goals struck off for offside.

Haddadi eventually got his second, and Cascadia’s third, with a neatly taken penalty, before Scott Menzies unleashed a fine shot on the stroke of half time to make it 4-0.

Bjork scored moments into the second half to further extend the home side’s lead in the game, before Haddadi completed his hat-trick with a second from the penalty spot.

However, Darfur had had chances of their own in the game, and pulled one back when Khalid Abdulkhalik headed home from a corner.

Bjork was not to be denied his moment, though – and scored two more to complete his hat-trick and grab his share of the limelight with teammate Haddadi.

It continues Cascadia’s recent good run of goalscoring form and secured another impressive victory for the North American side.

Interview with Kyle Johnson, head of Karen FA and MLS Works Community MVP nominee

“I want to open doors for athletes who did not have these opportunities before…”

Kyle Johnson is head of the Karen FA – and has just been nominated for a prestigious MLS Works Community MVP award. Find out more about his work with the Karen FA – and vote for him! – here…

To vote for Kyle in the MLS Works Community MVP award, go to https://mlsworkscmvp.com/

Tell us a bit about yourself, Kyle – and how did you come to be involved in Karen FA?

“I grew up playing football as a little kid, maybe from the age of 4, and I played until I was about 17. I ended up quitting in my final year of high school because I was burned out. I fell out of love for the game. It was not until I had a son that I got back into the game. He was a late bloomer and started playing when he was 12. From that point on, I have been really immersed back into things again.

“After some of the bad experiences I had with the game, I wanted to make sure my son didn’t have those same experiences. We did a non-traditional form of development and I just rented gyms and invited older players I knew to play two hours of pick up futsal 4-5 times per week. I wanted to focus on fun and the technical development of play through open playing. No cones, no drills. Just playing with very high-level players while encouraging everyone to do new things.

“As my son entered high school he was fortunate enough to be a part of a very successful high school program that went to the State tournament all four years he was there, while winning it in his first year. The Como Park Soccer Program in St. Paul was one of the most under-the-radar, successful programs in the state. It is a small inner-city school with much of the team comprised of players that do not play the traditional US ‘Club’ system.

“During his four years, I noticed that there was a real lack of diversity on the women’s side of the game in high school. I knew many of the young women at his high school and they were not being represented at a high level. During my son’s junior year of high school, I made the decision to commit my futsal training to the young women in the community that did not have the same opportunities as others. Again, I opened up gyms and provided a space for them to play and have fun.

I ended up becoming the girls’ high school coach at Como Park High School. It was some of the best 3-4 years of my life, working with the athletes at the school and in the community.

Over the past 3-4 years, my focus has been on giving opportunities to young women in underserved communities by providing spaces to play, a positive environment, and support through these challenging years. I was one of the original founders of Like a Girl, an organisation that works with young women in the St. Paul area. We developed the first ever College Showcase for young women that do not have the opportunity to play in these tournaments because they are not a part of the mainstream soccer system in the US.

To this day, I am really happy with the work that I have done over these four years. I helped get a number of young women scholarships to play in college while showing them it is a possibility to play at a high level. But as I look at the bigger scope of gender equity I knew that things could be done differently. In my heart of hearts I want to create ‘generational change’ for gender equity and opportunity. I know that to do such a thing it is not women who need to be changed. It is men that need to change their beliefs, behaviors, and actions towards women.

This was how the Karen FA was formed. We have the opportunity to be a mentor to all of the young men we work with, helping shape a positive, empowering view of all women. Showing them that women belong on the same pitch that they play on. Showing them that the ‘roles’ in society need to be changed and that we can all be equals on the field of life. The young men of the Karen national team will be having families of their own in the near future. It is my hope that they raise their sons to have the utmost respect for women and raise their daughters with the belief that they can be the next Martas of the world. The young women of the Karen national team will now be given an opportunity to show generations to come, that women in refugee communities can now play on the biggest stage. They will now be viewed as legitimate athletes and not just kids playing in a park.

The second main objective of the organisation is to open doors for athletes that did not have these opportunities before. Much like the College Showcase tournaments I did with Like a Girl. I will now be able to hold similar events with both the girls and boys, men and women, in the community to give them more exposure to higher-level football.

I am excited for the future of the Karen FA. I feel like we are a unique organisation that is tackling many different issues and utilising the game of football to do so.”

How did the Karen people come to join CONIFA?

During the summer of 2018, I worked with a local organisation in the US to try and get the Tibet Women’s National Team to come to the States and play. I learned about CONIFA doing my research with this organisation. I was so excited to learn that this organisation exists and I jumped right in to form the FA.”

What are the aims of the Karen FA?

We have many goals for the Karen FA. I am really excited to show the world how much talent there is in the community. Both the women and men continue to amaze me with the their natural talents. As I have been travelling the country running training sessions and scouting players it still blows me away by how much talent there is. Many of the athletes have not had any formal training either. The goal is to open doors for young athletes, helping them get into college and play beyond.

Our other major goal is ‘generational change’ for gender equity. I cannot emphasise this enough. I know we have such a unique model for making a difference. I don’t see any other major sports organisation (or business organisation) out there that is looking to make this kind of change, placing gender equity at such a high priority, and using the model of working with the men to do so. I have such a strong belief that we need to change the beliefs, behaviors, and actions of men to make real change in society as a whole. My goal is to use this model of gender equity and work with others around the world so that we can make change in all of society.”

The women and girls’ teams are really strong in Karen FA – did that happen naturally or was it something you worked to create?

This is very intentional. The women and girls’ teams are the foundation of what we do. That is not to minimise anything that we do with the men and boys. As we move forward with the FA, we will be doing everything on an equal level. If the women get new uniforms, the men get new uniforms. If the men are entered in a tournament that we need to travel for, the women will get the same. If and when we are able to build a training facility, both teams will benefit from it. At some point in the future, if we are ever able to pay our athletes, every athlete will make the same amount of money. To me it is very simple. I work with incredible athletes. It does not matter to me if they are female or male. They are athletes, and they deserve, and will get the same opportunities through and through. No question.”

You’ve just been nominated for a prestigious MLS Works Community MVP award. How does that make you feel? Why would you like people to vote for you?

To be honest, when I first got the phone call saying I was selected as a finalist, I broke down and cried. I am so thankful to be recognised with this honour. I know that there are so many people in this world that are making a positive difference and to be selected as a finalist by the MLS is truly an honour. I am so grateful.

I would like people to know that voting for me is really voting for a change. I hate to sound political. But this will never be about me. By voting for me you are voting for a change in gender equity. You are voting for someone that is looking to make change for generations of young women and men and huge impacts on their lives.

By voting for me you will be voting to give athletes from a refugee community an opportunity to showcase their talents. You will be voting to help them gain access to colleges and professional opportunities that they may not have had in the past.

By voting for me you will be voting for true positive in gender equity and opportunity.”

What are your next steps for Karen FA? What ambitions do you have for the federation?

Some will tell you that I am a very ambitious person. I have big dreams and goals. Truly the next steps for the FA will be identifying our initial pool of players on the women and men’s teams. This is a big challenge for us as we have athletes spread around the world. We are starting in the United States and then will work on a process of identifying players beyond.

We will be working on connecting our athletes with colleges and professional scouts. We already have identified a number of players that we feel have a great opportunity to play at the next level.

I am hoping to connect with businesses and colleges to come and speak about the Karen FA and work on models to help organisations form a more gender equitable business model of their own.

The big goal I have is to be a part of forming the CONIFA Women’s World Football Cup and hopefully bring that to the United States at some point in the future. It would mean the world to me to host that event and showcase the athletes from around the world that are a part of the CONIFA family.”

To vote for Kyle in the MLS Works Community MVP award, go to https://mlsworkscmvp.com/

Equal playing field: Kelly Lindsey working to drive forward the women’s game

Six months after CONIFA took its first step to gender equality at its 2019 AGM in Krakow, and five months after appointing Kelly Lindsey as its Director of Women’s Football, we checked in with Kelly to see how her plans are shaping up to ensure CONIFA’s women’s teams grow and develop alongside their male counterparts.

Kelly’s determination to host the first CONIFA Women’s World Cup as soon as possible is tempered with the realisation that women’s teams first need to be supported and given a place to play, train and become the best they can be. Kelly has also spent the first months of her tenure developing the dedication, passion and drive required to shape the future of women’s football.

Kelly explains further: “As I look at women’s football past, present and future, there is a lot to celebrate… but far less than there should be in 2019. I want to work with CONIFA in order to think differently, act differently, govern, listen and lead differently. I refuse to accept that the way it has always been done is what is best for the women’s game.

“My first goal as part of CONIFA was to build a strategic team of female leaders who would positively challenge, disrupt and transform the way the world looks at women’s sport, women’s football and – in my mind – the ‘women’s game’ globally. That encompasses all women, across all sectors, at all ages.

“I am excited to announce the CONIFA Women’s Strategic Team and outline our mission, vision, values and first steps in our pursuit of transforming the women’s game through developing the best place in the world for women to play!

“We value and appreciate CONIFA’s drive to elevate the women’s game, and the men and women working tirelessly to build bridges and unite diverse cultures, ideas and values under an inclusive umbrella to unite people through football. There is no better place and space for us to build the future of the women’s game together.

“I am very proud to introduce this amazing team of women, who come from diverse backgrounds, leadership roles, and management positions to challenge and transform the status quo in women’s football. In addition we are always looking to invite, engage and collaborate with people on a mission to elevate the ‘Women’s Game’.”

Kelly’s plans are targeted on the following six core values and functions. These will form the base of the strategic plans for developing CONIFA’s women’s teams and tournaments, and will be executed alongside CONIFA’s wider equality commitment.

1/ The CONIFA Women’s Strategy Team

* Pulling together diverse, innovative minds from the women’s game: women who have worked in diverse areas including governance, competitions, media, fan engagement and education.

2/ Vision

* This can be summed up neatly with the slogan: ‘Be the equal playing field!’ In other words, positively disrupt and transform the management, governance and development of women’s football and allow CONIFA to be the leader in the women’s game for players, coaches, management, referees and leadership. This allows women to define their future on and off the playing field.

3/ Commitment

* Align our actions as leader’s in the women’s game with our values, and collaborate with like-minded individuals and organisations who operate with integrity, equality, and respect.

4/ Be the equal playing field!

* CONIFA should be the place where every little girl can play football. Where every female can represent their people regardless of gender, and according to the life and journey of a young girl through adolescence and into adulthood.

5/ Values

* There are five core values our team will work to:

  • Character
  • Unity
  • Intention
  • Grit
  • Fearless

These five values guide everything that is done by the group and are encouraged and celebrated amongst its teams.

6/ Working closely with CONIFA members

* This includes working with female groups in CONIFA to:

  • Meet them where they are at
  • Develop football with them
  • Build female leadership/management
  • Develop the best competitions for women.

The journey for CONIFA’s women’s teams and its strategic leadership is just beginning. Follow CONIFA on TwitterFacebook and Instagram to keep up to date with all news about the next steps in the women’s teams’ journeys.

Kelly is also supporting Kernow FA as they search for their first ever director of women’s football – find out more about the role and how to apply here.

CONIFA seeking volunteer Social Media Content Creator for immediate placement

Image credit: Creative Commons

Working for the Deputy Media Director and Design Manager, the Social Media Content Creator will be charged with creating social media video, stories, GIFs, memes, infographics and images for the CONIFA social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn) as well as the CONIFA website and newsletters. You will be social first in your thinking and will be required to come up with engaging, exciting and shareable videos, stories and images for the CONIFA audience. This is particularly important around CONIFA tournaments when video content becomes a crucial element in our communication strategy.

The position is voluntary (as are all CONIFA positions) and can be done remotely, with the expectation to communicate progress to the Deputy Media Director, the Design Manager and other CONIFA staff, as required.

Hours per month:

5-20 recommended but it is at the discretion of the Social Media Content Creator to set a working schedule that is manageable around other commitments. Hours will generally be in the 10-15 hours per month range, but will increase depending on if there is an event taking place.

The main tasks will be:

  • Create YouTube videos from existing content, edit and publish them. Create thumbnails and titles for YT content
  • Create Instagram and Facebook posts and stories from existing content and publish them
  • Create Twitter posts from existing content and publish them
  • Take photos and videos yourself for use on social media
  • Post on social media channels and check performance; create monthly social media reports
  • Work with the Deputy Media Manager and Design Manager on strategic content
  • Edit content for tournaments alongside the CONIFA Media team
  • Work with the CONIFA Media team on how to best utilise video content

Necessary skills:

  • Good knowledge in editing videos for Instagram / Facebook stories and posts, and of social media in general
  • Knowledge of Adobe Premiere Pro or other video editing software
  • Knowledge of Photoshop for editing pictures
  • Work experience as a video creator/editor (personal or in career)
  • Demonstrable video editing and creation ability
  • Creative mind and storytelling skills
  • Experience in a similar role; up to date with social media trends

Useful skills:

  • Solid understanding of MyCujoo as a video platform
  • Analytics and campaign management knowledge, Microsoft Office skills

What you will get from the role:

  • An exciting chance to get experience in global football, working in a progressive, growing organisation using football for social empowerment
  • A unique opportunity to gain experience in sports social media.

We understand that as a voluntary position the Social Media Content Creator will need to balance paid work commitments and are completely flexible in terms of working hours.

The position is voluntary (as with all CONIFA roles).

Please email a CV and covering letter explaining why you would like to become the CONIFA Social Media Content Creator to m-hudson@hotmail.co.uk by Friday 2 August 2019.

CONIFA is dedicated to equality and diversity and we welcome applications from a diverse range of people, respecting and drawing on different perspectives, skills, experience and knowledge.

I think sometimes people don’t realise how others suffer when they’re taken away from home…

mage credit: Con Chronis

As part of our series for Refugee Week 2019, we speak to Haji Munye, who is head of the Barawa FA, about his life in England, CONIFA, and one day going back to Barawa…

Tell us about Barawa and what it’s like there? What would visitors expect to discover if they went to visit?
At this moment, it’s a difficult time in Barawa, as it is  a semi-occupied by Al-Shabaab, the terrorist organisation and they control a lot of the land around the south-east of Barawa. They have imposed a strict Islamic Sharia law, but the government has also been working hard to try and get them out of there.
In terms of the country itself, though, it’s on the coast and is a beautiful place where the sand and sea are just amazing.

So when did your family and yourself leave Barawa? How did you come to the UK?
When the civil war began in Somalia, I was a little baby at that time. We had to find safety for the family and we escaped from the coast to get a small boat to Mombasa in Kenya. It was an incredibly tough trip as we went on a boat through the night. From there, we stayed with a family member for a short while and then came to England as asylum seekers. We were settled here full time in 1992 and it has been home for us ever since.

Are your family here with you? Or are they still in Barawa?
There are a lot of my family here, and many still back in Barawa, but also we are spread far and wide around the world, with family in America, Australia, Germany and Switzerland.

Does listening to other people talking about Barawa make you want to know more about it?
The family speak a lot about Barawa. My granddad married to an Italian woman who is a historian and she wrote a book about the 800 years of history of the country. I sat down to listen to her and she said it’s the best place she’s been to in the world.
They got married in Mogadishu and she was amazed, and said it was an unbelievable place. Barawa had and still has a real sense of community. The people from Barawa are educated and more forward than other places, and in the past, it was a very liberal place and not as religious, and they enjoyed a strong social life.

What do they miss the most about their homeland?
They mainly miss being there as part of a peaceful, engaged community. You can get straight onto the beach and the scenery is fantastic. They have great links to the Portuguese, Italians and Chinese, so it has a real multicultural feel to it.
I think sometimes people don’t realise how others suffer when they’re taken away from home and taken from their real community. There are a lot of elders in this country who find it tough, because they had to flee their homes and their communities and come here, and they can be afraid of the system and the way things work here.
That said, everyone is grateful to England and how it’s welcomed us into the community here – we’ve been given the opportunity for a good education and employment opportunities and it’s given me a path to my role to be a PE teacher today.

Do you feel as though you’re British or do still retain your heritage now?
For me, when people ask me where I am from, I say I am Barawain, but I guess you could say I am a British-Barawain or Barawain-British!

I love my heritage, although everything I have learned has been in the UK, so it’s allowed me to mix my culture and benefit from both.
I have a lot of British friends and my life is here, but would love to go back home and be a part of the rehabilitation and rebuilding process for the country when the time is right.

Is there a strong Barawa community in the UK?
There are not many of us across the UK, but there are around a million who find themselves in different part of the world. We are a very peaceful people, but the football team has given us a means to make some noise!

What’s your one main dream of the future – your one hope?
I want to host a World Football Cup in Barawa at some point.

What has football helped you achieve outside and inside Barawa?
It has given me something to fall in love with, football has been my everything since I was young. I didn’t have a really good childhood, so my way out was always to play football.
I had a good youth career, and represented England at U16s and so football was a big thing to me. For my family, England has been a saviour to them, and football has given that same hope to me. Football has saved me and now I am a PE teacher because of it.

What has being a member of CONIFA given to the Barawa FA?
It has given us a platform that no one could have thought was possible. We are so grateful for that opportunity.
I have to give great praise to Sascha Düerkop, Kieran Pender and Paul Watson, who have been amazing. They are unbelievable human beings who put others first and stand up for injustice. Without them, we wouldn’t have had as much hope.
CONIFA has given us that opportunity, and we hope that one day we can also find peace in Barawa.

Every time I land in Somaliland, the smell always brings back so many memories…

As part of our Refugee Week 2019 series, we chat to Ilyas Mohamed, head of the Somaliland FA, about moving to the UK aged 9, and what he misses most about his homeland…

 

Q: Tell us about Somaliland, Ilyas. You’ve been back there a lot, setting up your footballing academy and preparing for the CONIFA World Football Cup in 2020. What is it like there?

“Unlike Somalia, its neighbour, many people do not know about Somaliland in the Western world. Western countries associate Somali people with constant wars and man-made disasters or poverty. Some of which is true – but since its formation, Somaliland is anything but that. With Somaliland 2020 we hope to change that by showcasing the beauty of Somaliland to the outside world. Somaliland is a peaceful country filled with happy people. Even though life is Somaliland is difficult and far from perfect, people will always find time to make you feel at home even as a foreign guest or visitor. They will take any opportunity to talk to you with their broken English.

“Somalilanders are natural entertainers. They are tough, resourceful and entrepreneurial people. You will find plenty of banter in all markets and modern shopping malls. Be prepared to haggle!”

Q: And what would visitors expect to discover if they went to Somaliland?

“If you are looking to visit a pristine holiday destination than Somaliland is        not the place for you. The best way to describe Somaliland is a ‘work in              progress’. The potential is endless but it’s caught up in a political limbo which explains its current state. However, Somaliland has a lot of natural beauty to offer to a visitor. It’s unique unlike any other country in the world. The most noticeable feature is how bright the sun and how clear and blue the sky is. Equally impressive are the natural and untouched beaches. Somalilanders love bright colours and every house is brightly decorated specially the old houses, which are interesting to observe as a first-time visitor. Somalilanders truly admire and love their camels. Be prepared to try camel meat…

“You can expect modern hotels in the major cities. The bigger cities are brimming with different types of foods from Ethiopia, Yemen, Syria, Somali and Western influences. There is something for everyone, you just have to go and find it.There’s a thriving telecommunications industry, and the internet is cheap and easily accessible throughout the country. There’s a young population who are savvy users of modern technology and social media.”

Q: So when did your family and yourself leave Somaliland? How did you come to the UK?

“I left Somaliland in 1993 and came to the UK as a nine-year-old via a family reunion.”

Q: Are your family here with you? Or are they still in Somaliland?

“My immediate family are in the UK, but my extended family are all in Somaliland.”

Q: Do you remember much about living there as a child?

I had a wonderful childhood in Somaliland and I loved every moment of it. We had little to nothing but we laughed and played all the time. I had so many friends and I still remember their nicknames even after 25 years. I remember so much from my childhood, the good and the bad. Every time I land in Somaliland, the smell always brings back so many memories. The call of the rooster in the morning. The pancake being prepared in the morning…”

Q: What do you miss from your time there? Is there a specific food or a place…?

“Naturally I miss all my relatives. I get a sense of belonging when I am in Somaliland. Time is so much slower and you can accomplish a lot in day.”

Q: Does the country still have an impact on your life today?

“Somaliland is always on my mind. It is home, it is the place where I was born and where my roots began. I feel obligated to improve the living conditions of the country, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear to be.”

Q: Moving to the UK… how did you find this? Was it easy or hard to settle in?

“As a child you adapt more easily to new environments than adults, so it was okay, not difficult at all. The weather was the main issue. The night we arrived it was snowing, and I recall how ill-prepared we were. The jackets we had on would not keep the cold out. We literally ran into the car freezing having left the airport, and remained indoors for a number of days observing the snow turn into slush from our windows. It was a totally new experience at the time.”

Q: What was the worst issue you had to face moving here? The hardest thing to deal with?

“The food was hard to get used to at first, to me it was very bland and tasteless. It took a while to get used to that!”

Q: Did people help you settle in? Or do you feel like you were on your own?

“I had a lovely bunch of friends at school who helped me to settle in there. Not knowing your neighbors was a strange thing; I found that very strange at first.”

Q: Do you feel as though you’re British or a Somalilander now? Which feels more like home?

“That’s a very tough question. I have a mixture of both cultures in me.”

Q: And which language feels like your ‘natural’ language now – English or Arabic, or…

“Neither of those – it’s definitely Somali. I think in Somali.”

Q: Is there a strong Somaliland community in the UK? Was it welcoming?

“There was a strong Somaliland community at the time and everyone supported each other. As the years go by naturally people become more independent and self reliant so the community ethos is not as strong as it was when I first moved here.”

Q: Would you ever want to move back to Somaliland for good? And how does it feel when you go back – like home?

“Not sure… possibly! It’s a strange feeling. The world changes and moves on. People I knew back in Somaliland either left or passed away so it doesn’t feel like home as much now. It’s not just the place that makes a home, it’s the people and when the people are missing, it takes time to get used to. Since I established the football association I have made genuine friends in Somaliland and that pulls me to one day resettle in Somaliland. I would say at the moment London feels more like home because the people I care most about are here and so that’s home.”

Q: What’s your one main dream of the future – your one hope?

“I want Somaliland to compete internationally in football.”

Q: What has football helped you to achieve outside and inside Somaliland?

“It has taken me strange places that I would never have considered going to. I went to Abkhazia. The country and its people were amazing. I highly recommend it to any traveller. In Somaliland, it has help me create real, genuine friends who I feel honoured to know.”

Q: What has being a member of CONIFA given to the Somaliland FA?

“The opportunity to play the beautiful game with the rest of the CONIFA members. This has become a catalyst for us to chase a bigger goal. To play international football not too far in the future.”

Darfur United… is a vehicle to tell the story of refugees from around the world

As part of our Refugee Week 2019 series, Gabriel Stauring, co-founder and director of I-ACT, an NGO that provides humanitarian action to aid, empower, and extend hope to those affected by mass atrocities, explains how the Darfur United team came into existence…

 

“When the idea first came up about creating a football team made up of refugees from the 12 Darfuri camps in eastern Chad, we began conversations with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to see if they would be open to supporting what appeared to be an almost impossible road to the World Football Cup for non-FIFA teams. To our surprise, UNHCR in Chad was open to supporting and agreed to officially endorse our team’s journey in 2012.

“We knew that this beautiful game would be a great vehicle for positive change for a group of people that had experienced the horrors of genocide.

 

“Darfur United is serious about football – but the team is also a vehicle to tell the story of refugees from around the world. There are currently almost 70 million people that are refugees and internally displaced. It is a crisis that cannot be ignored. Darfur United uses a sport that is loved around the world to make the refugee story more accessible, and show the personal side of a huge, mind-numbing crisis.

“I knew that football had this amazing power to create change. Nonetheless, it was eye-opening to see how much more it meant to the refugees. When I first started talking with them about possibly creating Darfur United, one leader told me: ‘Now we are a part of the world.’ For a population that had lost so much, having their own team gives them a sense of identity and one that is positive and offers joy and hope.

“The players went through and continue to go through so many tough moments. It’s hard for me to even imagine, but they talk about being away from their families and how they worry about all their people. They feel guilty about not being to help as much as they’d like to.

“They also experience many moments of joy. They came from different camps, where they had been isolated since they were boys. Their teammates became like brothers, and I could see how meaningful that was—the connection with others that had experienced the same difficult journey.

“My hope is that the Darfur United Men’s and Women’s teams continue to be a source of joy for the people of Darfur and for all refugees. But beyond joy, we also want these teams to attract regular people that might not know about big humanitarian issues and they might then allow themselves the opportunity to become change-makers. Football has powerful gravity. Darfur United is hope in action.

“The teams have been a labor of love, for the players, for iACT (the nonprofit that worked with the refugees to create the teams), and for supporters. We’ve never had large sponsorships, although we’re working to find them. We are always looking for support, both monetarily, volunteers, and in-kind donations.”

People can learn more, follow the team, and donate at DarfurUnited.com – https://darfurunited.com/

They can also contact iACT Co-Executive Director Katie-Jay Scott: ktj@iactivism.org

Interview with Merfin Demir, Founder of the Romani People FA, a CONIFA member.

mage credit: Nihad Nino Pušija

About Merfin
Against the backdrop of the increasing signs of decay in the former Yugoslavia, Merfin’s family emigrated to Germany in 1988, where he completed his education.

His employment since then has included the creation and implementation of projects offering advanced training in empowerment, anti-racism and integration with young Roma and their families.

The main aspects of his volunteer work are the establishment of self-organised groups of discriminated-against people and starting intercultural dialogues; always based on the common commitment of all to the inviolability of human dignity as a right.

From 2011 to 2014, this father of three worked as a full-time project manager at DJO (Deutsche Jugend in Europa in Nordrhein-Westfalen e. V.) for the project ‘Be Young & Roma’ at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. From 2015 to 2016, he was employed as a senior staff member at the Otto-Benecke-Stiftung e. V. in the project ‘Junge Roma Aktiv’ (Young Active Roma).

 

This is one of a series of articles and interviews CONIFA is running as part of Refugee Week 2019. To learn more, please go to https://refugeeweek.org.uk/

SD: I’ve read that you were born in Skopje. Did you grow up in Šutka? [Šutka is the Roma quarter of the city of Skopje. It has been described as a ‘slum’. Two-thirds of the 18,000 inhabitants are Romani. It’s the only community in Macedonia with a Roma majority, which means that Romanes is an official language in Šutka, a unique occurrence globally.]

“Yes, I was raised in Šutka, which was in Yugoslavia at the time. It looked very different back then, though. It might be an exaggeration to say it was the most beautiful part of Skopje – it was incredibly green! Back then, it was perfect for a boy like me. We had a garden and played out a lot on the streets, as there was barely any traffic. It was a nice, rural, atmosphere, which was sadly lost over the years.”

SD: When and how did you get to Germany?

“In 1988, my parents decided to leave Yugoslavia when I was seven years old. We took the train and the journey felt like a great adventure to the little me. I’d never been outside of Macedonia before, let alone Yugoslavia. As a kid, I didn’t realise that we were just about to move our life to a new country.”

SD: So you were refugees in Germany?

“Yes. We applied for asylum and received a permanent residency status based on humanitarian grounds in the 1990s. We were lucky at the time, as we arrived in Germany before all the wars broke out and Yugoslavia collapsed entirely. Only a few years after we left, Macedonia declared independence, as so many Macedonians were drafted to fight in Bosnia, Croatia or elsewhere. That was unacceptable for all Macedonians.”

SD: Was your escape organised? Did you know for sure that you could stay in Germany?

“No, not really. We had friends who had settled in Germany a few years earlier and showed us the way. That was enough for my parents to take the chance and hope we would be received in the same way.”

SD: Did your whole family move with you, or do you still have relatives in Šutka?

“As a result of the endless wars all over the Balkans, I’ve got family all over Europe… from Italy to Sweden. Whenever I travel in Europe, I meet up with friends and relatives that I haven’t seen for years, who show me where they live now. Some stayed behind, or returned to Šutka, so yes – I do have relatives there.”

SD: Do you visit Skopje regularly?

“I do. My last visit was in 2018, and I have to say, I’m always overwhelmed by it whenever I go back. In a way, I miss the daily multiculturalism that Skopje experiences. Everyday life is so much easier for everyone, when heritage, ethnicity, language or passport play no role for anyone.

“As a visitor, I usually don’t even know if the waiter in the restaurant is an ethnic Albanian, Macedonian or Roma – and it doesn’t matter! Most of the people in Skopje are extremely friendly and welcoming to me whenever I go back there.”

SD: Is there anything you miss from your childhood?

[Laughs] “Everyone misses their childhood! I will never be so relaxed, so happily naïve and so composed ever again. Being a child is just beautiful in every regard. I’m not regretting that those days are over… but I love to remember those carefree days.

“Regarding Šutka in particular, I’ll never forget my neighbourhood, which was a role model for the multiculturalism and openness I often miss today. My neighbour to the right was Macedonian, my neighbour to the left, Albanian. Their doors were always open and I was welcome to come over and spend time with them any time I wanted.”

SD: Do you speak Macedonian or Albanian?

“I speak Macedonian, yes, but sadly never learned Albanian.”

SD: Do you think that the Balkans are still a part of you?

“Of course, the whole region and its history influenced me. Most people today just think of the Balkans as a region of endless ethnic conflicts. In fact, it’s the opposite if you look at the history of the region. Since Roman times, the Balkans were multi-ethnic and multilingual. Different tribes, ethnicities and cultures shared the Balkan for over 2,000 years and, mostly, did so peacefully. The borders we find on maps today are random administrative boundaries – they never existed in the minds of the people of the Balkans.”

SD: How was the journey to Germany that first time? And how hard was it to settle in Germany?

“Coming to Germany was easy in the ‘80s, as the Yugoslav passport was recognised then. Sadly, passports have become the most important feature of any human being or, as Berthold Brecht said: ‘A passport is the most noble part of a person. Thus it will be approved if it is good, whereas a person without a good passport can be just as good – but still not be approved.’

“The biggest challenge arriving in Germany was being granted a permanent residency status, which worked out in the end. I’m extremely grateful to my parents, who went out of their way to make sure settling in Germany was possible. I remember that asylum seekers were not allowed to work at the time. When a new law was passed to change that, and long before it was actually implemented, my dad went to the job centre to find work – successfully! We also only lived in a refugee centre for six months, as my parents worked hard to find a flat for us.”

SD: Did you get any further support in Germany, for example from your neighbours?

“Definitely! One of my best friends migrated from East Germany in 1990 or 1991, and lived next door to us. We went to school together and supported each other in any possible way. Now that I think about it, I get the feeling that there was a social cohesion at the time that is sadly lost now. We lived in an apartment block and everyone there used to help each other in many different ways.

“I remember that we collected money to finance the funeral of an elderly lady living in our apartment block, and absolutely everybody contributed whatever they could. That seems like an impossibility today, sadly.”

SD: How is life in Germany nowadays for you? I’ve read in a recent study that 60% of Germans don’t want to live next door to Romani People, Muslims, or refugees. Do you, as a Muslim Roma refugee, feel this rejection in your daily life?

“Not that much as, at one point in my life, I decided to follow Paul Watzlawick’s theory of radical constructivism. That means I’m constructing my own environment for my family and me. Just like I choose the books I read and the music I listen to, I choose my friends, my colleagues and my general environment too. This environment’s extremely diverse and doesn’t only include Romani People and Germans, but also Alevites, Yazidis, Jews and Sikhs, whom I all work with to fight for their civil rights. But these people all have one thing in common: they don’t judge me on my heritage, they’re very open minded and would never allow me to be discriminated against.

“Luckily, my kids have adopted this way of life, as they understand it’s an efficient way to protect yourself against abuse.

“It doesn’t mean, however, that I never experience racism or abuse – of course I do. It also doesn’t mean that I turn a blind eye to the reality of life, which can be grim and cruel. It just means that I try to make lemonade, when life gives me lemons, instead of crying about getting lemons again.

“Sadly, though, I do consider the study you cite as absolutely spot on. Romani People have a horrible image in Germany; throughout society, you find people thinking that Romani People are ‘primitive’ and ‘uneducated’, which is just wrong. It’s the definition of racism. Because of the omnipresence of such prejudices, many, if not most, Romani People in Germany do deny being Roma, which is very sad.

“I remember a situation back in 2015, when I had a work meeting with my Romani colleagues in Bonn. On the way back, we spoke Romanes on the train, as we would always do. When we left the train, a young woman came to me and asked if I would have time for a coffee. When I explained that I was a married man, she explained that she had heard us speaking Romanes, and that she was a student of medicine from a middle-class Romani family. She just wanted to get to know us. She said she won’t speak Romanes in public to avoid being stigmatised and asked us to speak with her in German.

“That random meeting is ingrained in my brain, as it shows that it’s seemingly easier, as a Roma, to climb the social ladder when you deny your identity. Many non-Romani I tell this story to are confused by it and ask me if it isn’t fine nowadays to ‘out’ yourself as a Roma, especially when you are successful. Sadly, it is not.”

SD: Do you feel like a Macedonian, a Roma, or a German today?

“I feel I am a global citizen! I always remember a publication by Alexander Gauland [leader of the right-wing AfD party in Germany], who spoke about a globalised class, which he described as follows: ‘The members [of that class] mostly live in big cities, speak English fluently, and if they move from Berlin to London or Singapore for work, they will find the same apartments, houses, restaurants, shops and private schools. This milieu remains among its own kind, but is culturally “colourful”.’

“I must admit, I would not find it easy to leave my home city of Düsseldorf, but I also do not find it absurd to think about moving to London or Singapore. I can identify with such a ‘globalized class’, which Gauland is obviously referring to as something terrible. I am even proud to identify with that class.”

SD: So, in a way, you feel like a Roma, a German, a Macedonian… and much more?

“Yes, in a way those are all parts of me. But it is hard to describe such feelings. When I am in Skopje, however, I do have a feeling of happiness.”

SD: A sense of being home?

“Yes and no. I am very happy being in Skopje, but Düsseldorf is my home. Whenever I return to Düsseldorf, I’m very glad to be back in my structured daily life. At the end of the day, I’m a product of a neoliberal society. That said, I want to be productive. I want to write my next article, prepare or hold another seminar – I need that and I do that in Düsseldorf.”

SD: In which language does Merfin Demir think and dream?

“I think and dream in German.”

SD: So German is your ‘natural language’?

“Correct. It’s not my mother tongue, that is Romanes and Macedonian, but it is the language of my life. My first book was in German and everyone around me speaks German most of the time.”

SD: Can you write in Romanes and Macedonian?

“Sadly, I can’t write in Macedonian, as I can only read printed Cyrillic script, but I can read and write Romanes in my dialect, yes.”

SD: Is there a large Roma community in Germany and Düsseldorf, in particular?

“In Düsseldorf, absolutely. In Germany as a whole, not that much, no.”

SD: Did the community welcome you, when you arrived in Germany?

“Well, there is no homogenous Roma community. It would be more precise to speak of the Roma communities. Those communities, sometimes, have little in common and rarely any links between each other. Apart from the language, they have little in common, and even the language varies depending on their geographical heritage.

“When I speak Romanes, I do use Macedonian ‘loan’ words, while German Romani People use German ‘loan’ words. Those who are speaking Romanes very well, and I would say I do, are able to understand the other variations of the languages – but Romani People are heterogenous and diverse. This is a very important point to make: the Roma identity or, better, the Roma identities are strongly linked to regional identities. That said, I am part of a symbiosis of a Roma identity from Skopje and Düsseldorf.

SD: Does that mean that there’s no strong sense of unity between Romani People, like the Kurdish People, who live in different countries, but very much identify as Kurds – and mean the same by it, when they use that term?

“It’s very different. Kurds have a historical and current homeland, the non-recognized Kurdistan, which spans several countries. Kurds have a second, a geographical, base of identity, which Roma miss. Identities are always characterised by such bases, which can be a geographical area, like Kurdistan for Kurds, or a book, like the Tora for Jews.

“For us Romani People, language is probably the only such base and that is not strong enough to create a strong sense of unity among Romani People.”

SD: As you mention religion… Romani People are also religiously diverse, right?

“Exactly. Most western Europeans believe that all Romani People are Catholics. In fact, there are a lot of Protestant Roma. I myself am a Sunni Muslim. The majority of the Romani People, I believe, are Christian – but orthodox, not Catholic.”

SD: Could you imagine going back to Macedonia one day?

“I can’t. The centre of my life is Düsseldorf. The unstable political situation back in Macedonia also makes it difficult. I do believe, though, that the European Union has a massively stabilising impact on the country. So that said, I might reconsider where to spend the autumn of my life, should Macedonia be accepted as a EU member…”

SD: Could you imagine going back for work, for instance, with the local Romani community in Skopje?

“No, as I lack the network back there, which I have here in Germany. This enables me to achieve something for the community as a whole. I can do much more for the Romani People here, but also globally, from where I am now.”

SD: What is your one big dream for the future?

“I have many dreams, but I want to mention one that is very close to my heart: I believe that we need a much stronger Romani People FA within CONIFA. We know that we all can and have to do a lot more, but I am convinced that we should start that work! I believe that a strong Romani People team can be an important tool to make the Romani People more visible and create role models in Europe and across the world – something we often lack and that could empower us.

“A football team is definitely something that creates a sense of identity, and I am convinced that we have to do exactly that far more than we do – creating a sense of identity or identities, strengthen them and represent them to the outside world!”

Who Has Qualified for the World Football Cup 2020 So Far?

Now the European Football Cup 2019 is at an end, all eyes are turning to next summer’s CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup, taking place in Somaliland.

To date, CONIFA has 56 members from six continents – but only 16 teams can participate in the World Football Cup. The hosts Somaliland, the holders Karpatalya, and the Wild Card winners Western Sahara have already qualified for the event, all on a so-called ‘Global Ticket’ basis, as their route to qualification was not connected to their continental association.

The remaining 13 berths for the CONIFA Sportsbet.io World Football Cup 2020 are then distributed via continental quotas. Different to other sporting governing bodies, CONIFA calculates the number of continental berths for each continent based on the percentage of members originating from the respective continental zone.

South America:

Currently Mapuche is the only South American member of CONIFA. As every continental zone gets at least one entry to the World Football Cup, this team has automatically qualified for the WFC 2020. As the team have confirmed their interest in participating, Mapuche will take part in their first ever CONIFA adventure next summer!

North America and Oceania:

Both the North American and Oceanian zones will have the chance to send one representative each to Somaliland in the summer of 2020. In both cases, several CONIFA members from the respective regions have confirmed their interest in participating, so the entries won’t be known before October 2019, when the qualification phase comes to an end.

Asia:

A total of 11 CONIFA FAs, or 19.6% of all the association’s members, originate from Asia. This means the zone can send a total of three teams to the World Football Cup 2020. As an incredible eight teams have confirmed their interest and shown confidence that they can compete in the tournament, the teams playing in Africa won’t be known before the end of the qualification period in early October.

Europe:

A total of four European teams will be able to enter the competition to be crowned World Football Champion next summer in Somaliland, in addition to the already qualified Karpatalya team. As the reigning European Football Cup holder, the Caucasian nation of South Ossetia is the first team to receive a ticket for 2020’s tournament. The remaining three continental tickets will be announced in early October, when the qualification period is closed.

Africa:

For the first time in the history of football outside of FIFA, the African continent will host a major international tournament. After the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa, it is only the second global football competition on the continent – and the largest ever held in East Africa.

With Somaliland and Western Sahara already holding a global ticket each to enter the event, there are three more teams that will be able to join them. As only three teams from Africa declared their interest to play in the event within the given deadline, we are proud to announce that Darfur will make their return to a CONIFA tournament, after a long break since 2014, where they inspired fans and opponents alike in Östersund, Sweden, at CONIFA’s first World Football Cup.

Likewise, Kabylia and Matabeleland have qualified as well, and will both play in their second World Football Cup in a row, after bringing some of the largest crowds to the last global event CONIFA held in London.

We are extremely pleased to have such a strong African competition at the first ever African non-FIFA football event, and cannot wait to meet everyone in Hargeisa to celebrate the beautiful game together!

6 conclusions from the final day of the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup

Image credit: Gevorg Ghazaryan

  1. Was that the most dramatic ending to a CONIFA final ever?

Wow! We couldn’t have asked for a more remarkable conclusion to the tournament. A chance for crowd favourites Western Armenia to take the final to penalties with the last kick of the game, only for a heroic double save by Muharbeg Buraev to give South Ossetia the title. Penalties have been a theme of this year’s European Football Cup, with both semi-finals and the third-place playoff already having been decided on spot kicks. Suddenly it looked like the final was destined to go the same way, until Buraev sent shockwaves around Stepanakert.

  1. The goal was definitely in!

The ball hitting the back of the net from a superb 35-yard free kick is a worthy way to win any football match. It’s not very often that the ball hits the back of the net – then carries on going though! That’s exactly what happened to Ibragim Bazaev’s thunderbolt in the 65th minute. The forward somehow managed to hit a section of the netting which was stretched enough that the ball could squeeze through, barely ruffling it and sparking prolonged confusion in the stadium and amongst Western Armenian players and staff. Referee Dmitrii Zhukov and his assistants were on the ball though, and rightly gave the goal.

  1. The fans made the final and the tournament – but vuvuzelas?!

The crowds in Artsakh were truly exceptional, filling up the Stepanakert Stadium on several occasions, and creating a wonderful buzz around the games in the smaller towns of Askeran, Martakert and Martuni. Was it really necessary to bring back the dreaded vuvuzela for the tournament though? The monotonous horns which plagued the football world in 2010 and were then banned by a string of sporting organisations somehow found their way to Artsakh to make matchgoers’ eardrums ache. The fans were still amazing though!

  1. South Ossetia and Western Armenia are both forces to be reckoned with in future CONIFA tournaments

Neither of the finalists were particularly fancied for the title this year, with former CONIFA tournament champions Padania and Abkhazia in the mix, and the weight of Artsakh behind their home team. However, they showed in the final why they are now key players in CONIFA football, with solid, disciplined performances and occasional flashes of real quality. The heat and relentless schedule in Artsakh didn’t lend itself to a pressing game or nonstop end-to-end football, and these two sides showed their ability to manage games and be ruthless when required. They will be big scalps in any future tournaments they enter.

  1. Gurtsiev was a deserving winner of the Sportsbet.io Player of the Tournament award

Although it was his strike partner Bazaev who scored the winner in the final, tournament top-scorer Gurtsiev was the standout player in Artsakh. The strike duo proved to be the perfect foil for each other, scoring all of South Ossetia’s 7 goals (compared to Western Armenia’s 8 from 7 different scorers). FC Chaica forward Gurtsiev’s clever runs and his gem of a left foot made him a handful for every defender he came up against, and a worthy winner of the Sportsbet.io award for Player of the Tournament.

  1. Everyone was happy at the final tournament press conference

After the wonderfully wacky closing ceremony, with volunteers waving flares out of Ladas being driven around the pitch and Voices of Artsakh performing their earworm anthem one last time, some of the key organisers gathered in the Stepanakert media centre for a final press conference.

Grigori Martirosyan, State Minister of the Republic of Artsakh was quick to congratulate the champions, but also praised the CONIFA rule of awarding medals and trophies to everyone. “All teams are winners,” he said. “We have enjoyed 9 unforgettable days, and it is with some sadness that it has come to an end.” Martirosyan noted the average of over three goals per game, and the absence of any disruptive incidents or accidents during the tournament. His Artsakh government colleague Narine Aghabalyan, the Minister of Education, Science and Sport, also thanked the 1,000 or so people involved in making the tournament a reality.

CONIFA General Secretary, Sascha Düerkop, was glowing in his appraisal of the tournament, picking out the multitude of smiling volunteers as the unsung heroes of the competition. Title sponsors Sportsbet.io were represented at the conference by Lucy Thomas, PR & Sponsorship Manager, and Justin Le Broque, Head of Sportsbook Marketing. Le Broque said they had been “blown away” by the event, and that it had set the bar for future CONIFA tournaments. “Thanks for welcoming us into your family,” Thomas said. “Our campaign for the tournament was ‘Defy the Odds’ and every story we have heard has lived up to that.”

Smiles all round, and time for a well-earned rest for those who spent months bringing the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup to life.

CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 match officials: Sunday 9 June

Image credit: Gevorg Ghazaryan
CONIFA would like to express its gratitude to all match officials taking part in the final of the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019. Today’s officials are:
Western Armenia v South Ossetia (final)
Referee team: Donetsk
Referee: Dmitrii Zhukov
AR1: Vitalii Mazin
AR2: Valerii Kravchenko
4th Official: Aleksandr Demenko
5th Official: Ivan Mrkalj

Three of the best!

Image credit: David Ghahramanya

We pick out 3 of the finest players from the CONIFA Sportbet.io European Football Cup 2019 final!

No7 – Batradz Gurtsiev – One of the top scorers going into the game, Gurtsiev caused problems down the wing for his Western Armenian counterparts. The forward had scored five goals throughout the tournament before coming into the final and his presence was notable in the first half.

Though his distribution was poor from set-pieces and crosses, the winger’s trickery was the making of most of South Ossetia’s chances. His off-the-ball movement was also an asset to South Ossetia, working space for his attacking teammates throughout the afternoon

No77 – Ibrahim Bazaev – A comfortable performance on the whole as the lone striker, but it was the forward’s brilliance which separated the sides in Stepanakert to give South Ossetia the trophy.

With both sides unable to break the deadlock half an hour from time, it was Bazaev’s individual brilliance that opened the scoring with a delightful freekick from 30 yards, which sailed into the top corner. This spectacular strike decided the game and saw South Ossetia crowned CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup champions.

71 – Muhaberg Buzaev – The hero of the final. At 1-0 up in the final seconds of stoppage time, Western Armenia were awarded a penalty in a dramatic end to the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup final.

Buzaev, however, had different ideas. Diving low outstretched to his right, he palmed the penalty away as the final whistle blew, to spark wild celebrations in Stepanakert. In an exciting game to conclude the championship in Artsakh, the goalkeeper will be remembered as the hero of the tournament.

Western Armenia 0-1 South Ossetia

Author: Olaf JensenImage credit: David Ghahramanya

A cagey conclusion to the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 final was brought alive by two moments of high drama that saw South Ossetia emerge as champions.

The final – perhaps predictably, but certainly disappointingly – began much as any other final does, cagey, lacking tempo and purpose.

It took South Ossetia’s Gurtsiev, one of the tournament’s standout players, to make the first breakthrough, cutting inside to force a save from Kasparov. His was a ubiquitous presence on the Ossetian right flank, menacing the Western Armenian goalkeeper more than once.

Western Armenia were sloppy on the ball, and too often stifled their own counterattacks by losing possession in the final third. The Ossetian keeper was tested by a low, long-range shot from outside the box by Yedigaryan, and Hovsepyan was nearly allowed to slip through unmarked, but they were denied by to the resolute South Ossetian defence – including Kaitov, whose head was still bandaged from an injury earlier in the tournament.

This sloppiness nearly cost them – three Western Armenian players received yellow cards in the first half, and it took a desperate goalmouth scramble to deny South Ossetia a goal late on.

Western Armenia started the second half with renewed energy and confidence, but the South Ossetian defence remained too well-disciplined.

South Ossetia, meanwhile, built slowly and purposefully, demonstrating a greater depth of skill than their more solid Western Armenian counterparts.

But they ultimately had their best chances from fast-paced counterattacks, firstly through a glancing Bazaev header, and then as the same player was brought down by Guzel deep in the Western Armenian half.

It was from the ensuing free kick that Bazaev netted the game’s only goal, firing past the outstretched Kasparov – but not without some measure of confusion, as the Western Armenian players swarmed the referee to protest the goal. South Ossetia took the lead.

Western Armenia attacked desperately, piling on enormous amounts of pressure, with captain Yedigaryan spraying the ball out wide to the substitute Hovhannisyan, who created plenty of chances through high balls whipped into the South Ossetian box.

Despite plenty of possession, Western Armenia’s poor first touch and sloppy passing meant they struggled to capitalise on it.

But they nearly had their chance. Brought down by a uncharacteristically shabby South Ossetian defending, Davoyan had the chance to equalise from the spot. His weak penalty effort was nudged out by goalkeeper Buraev.

It was to be the last touch of the game. The outcome was in no doubt. South Ossetia are the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup Champions.

Padania 0-2 Artsakh

Image credit: Gevorg Ghazaryan

Artsakh secured fifth place in the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup as a goal from Arsen Sargasyan and another for Malyaka secured the win for the tournament hosts in the national stadium in Stepanakert.

The first half was a flat affair as both sides became accustomed to the conditions in the bright sun. Andrea Rota had a half chance as he cut in from the wing, but his effort was easily gathered by the Artsakh goalkeeper.

Artsakh’s main threat came through Marat Karapetyan who danced with experienced central defender Marius Stankevicius throughout the first half. However, any chances Artsakh fashioned were matched by the Padania goalkeeper, who was impressive between the sticks.

A drinks break midway through the first half kicked the game into life, but neither side could break the deadlock before the interval, which ended with an Artsakh coach being booked for leaving his technical area too many times.

In the second period, both sides continued to battle with the heat, but it was the lively Karapetyan who created Artsakh’s opener. His mazy run from the wing opened up space for Artsakh’s Arsen Sagarsyan in the area. The captain struck the ball first time low into the bottom corner, celebrating in front of the Artsakh fans.

As time ticked by and the heat sapped the energy of the players, Padania fought their way back into the game. From a corner, a Padania forward lost his man in the area but his effort, unmarked from 12 yards, sailed way over the bar.

Despite the pressure and holding off their counterparts in six minutes of added time, Artsakh secured the win deep into stoppage time through Malyaka who carried the ball all the way from the halfway line to slot home and secure fifth place in the tournament.

At the end of the game, both sides were presented with trophies in the medal ceremony for finishing fifth and sixth respectively in the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019.

CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 match officials: Saturday 8 June

Image credit: Brad Merrett

CONIFA would like to express its gratitude to all match officials taking part in the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019. Today’s officials are:

Match: Szekely Land v Sapmi
Referee team: L. Artsakh/CoF/Sweden
Referee: René Jacobi
AR1: Petros Karapetyan
AR2: Sedrak Akobyan
4th Official: Roger Lundbäck

Match: Artsakh v Padania
Referee team: CoF
Referee: Ivan Mrkalj
AR1: André Ahnert
AR2: Julian Schilling
4th Official: Felix Bröker

Match: Chameria v Abkhazia
Referee team: Donetsk
Referee: Dmitri Zhukov
AR1: Vitalii Mazin
AR2: Valerii Kravchenko
4th Official: Aleksandr Demenko

Sapmi 3-2 Szekely Land

Image credit: Karo Sahakyan

Sapmi secured 7th place in the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup with a 3-2 victory over Szekely Land, their first win of the competition.

Two teams who have endured disappointing campaigns brought them to a close at the Askeran City Stadium with an entertaining game. Despite failing to register a win in the group stages, both sides have contributed to some brilliant matches in Artsakh, which will live long in the memory.

The early exchanges were uneventful, but Sapmi grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck after 17 minutes, as Benjamin Zahrisson found space in the box and fired in low at the keeper’s near post. They got another moments later when Samuli Latila raced onto a loose ball after the Szekely Land defence had failed to clear.

Sapmi were in pole position, but an agonising goalkeeping error brought Szekely Land back into the match. Norbert Lazar’s dangerous free kick delivery was flicked on by Rajmond Balint, and Anton Sarri couldn’t hold on as it rolled over the line.

The pressure continued to come from Szekely Land, and the chance for the equaliser arose when Bojond Kovacs was brought down in the corner of the box. Akos Kovacs showed held his nerve from 12 yards as he slotted past Sarri into the bottom right corner.

A key turning point came on the hour mark, as Szekely Land’s Ghinea Hunor was shown a red card for a second bookable offence. Szekely still posed a threat going forward though, with Norbert Benko-Biro blasting a shot off the underside of the crossbar.

Sapmi were able to find more space going forward, and eventually found the winning goal. A corner was pulled back to Latila, whose shot was deflected in for his second of the game. They had to weather the storm of a late green card for Mika Holmen Haetta, and after a Barna Vekas strike which Sarri had to tip over, they just about held on to secure 7th place.

Looking ahead to the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup final…

Image credit: Karo Sahakyan

On Sunday 9 June, Artsakh gets set for the final of the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019. The final in Stepanakert will be played between Western Armenia and South Ossetia, a fixture which opened Group B games one week ago. Kick off is at 6pm.

Last Time They Met…

The two finalists opened their respective tournaments against each other on the opening day of fixtures, with outsiders South Ossetia earning a narrow victory in Martuni.

With the President of Artsakh, Bako Sahakyan, in attendance, Badrat Gurtsiev broke the deadlock for South Ossetia with a powerful freekick which nestled into the corner via a deflection. The lively forward doubled the side’s lead early in the second half with a diving header from a looping cross to increase the cushion.

The Western Armenians came back strong, however, determined to salvage a result at the Avakyan Arena. They halved the deficit through David Azin as he latched onto a through ball and slotted it underneath the advancing South Ossetia goalkeeper to set up an exciting finish to the game.

Western Armenia threw men forward in the dying embers of the matvh, but South Ossetia saw out the victory as their 2019 European Football Cup campaign got off to a flying start.

The route to the final

Western Armenia – There was to be no hangover to their opening day 2-1 defeat to South Ossetia for the Western Armenians as they romped to a 5-0 victory over Szekely Land. The game, which had five different goal scorers, was crucial in Western Armenia’s qualification hopes from the group stages and seemed to really kick-start their tournament.

Western Armenia secured their semi-final spot on matchday three with a 1-1 draw with Padania, knocking the holders of the trophy out of the competition in the process. Artur Yedigaryan’s goal was enough to see Western Armenia progress to the knockout stages in what became a heated affair in Stepanakert.

In front of a big crowd and an electric atmosphere, Western Armenia secured their place in the final after beating Abkhazia on penalties. Going behind in the first half against the run of play to a Khugaev strike, the Western Armenians were handed a penalty to level the tie. Davit Manoyan stepped up and coolly placed his penalty into the right corner. The game was a tense affair for the remainder of the match, and neither side were able to muster many goal-scoring opportunities. It was to be decided on penalties. Abkhazia failed to score all three of their attempts whilst Western Armenia scored each of theirs, meaning they took the first position in the final.

South Ossetia – South Ossetia began their European Football Cup campaign with a 2-1 victory over Western Armenia. They followed this result with another impressive win over tournament favourites Padania, to put themselves firmly in the driving seat to top Group B.

On matchday three, South Ossetia dropped their first points of the tournament with a 2-2 draw with Szekely Land, but it was still enough to progress to the semi-finals. Badrat Gurtsiev notched his third and fourth goals of the European Football Cup as the side twice came from behind to earn a point and a place in the knockout stages.

Meeting Chameria in the semi-finals in Askeran, the match was a nail-biting affair. The goalless draw saw the game go all the way to penalties after 90 minutes, and even still the two sides continued to match each other. After 14 penalties – including an audacious ‘Panenka’ from Chameria’s Marco Van Basten Cema – South Ossetia eventually claimed the second place in the final alongside Western Armenia after Boci Xhorxhian missed the decisive spot kick.

Star Players

Western Armenia:

Gevorg Kasparov (Goalkeeper) – A consistent performer in the group stages, and a hero in the semi-final penalty shootout against Abkhazia. Kasparov has only picked the ball out of his net four times this tournament – and that’s including every penalty he has faced in the competition so far.

If the goalkeeper can continue this inspired form he could become a crucial part of Western Armenia’s chances in the final on Sunday. Saving twice in the shootout against Abkhazia, if the match is to go all the way to penalties, the stopper’s heroics could prove to be the difference in Stepanakert.

South Ossetia:

Badrat Gurtsiev (Winger) – Gurtsiev has found the net five times so far this tournament and has troubled defences from the opening minutes of the European Football Cup. The lively winger is versatile, with two of his goals coming from headers as the forward became one to watch in Artsakh.

Gurtsiev has also found the net against Western Armenia twice already, with a brace against Sunday’s opponents on the opening day. It could be an interesting battle between Kasparov in the Western Armenia goal as the two star players go head-to-head.

Cultural Days Report

Image credit: Gevorg Ghazaryan

The CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 has been a festival of culture as well as football. Every day in the host cities there have been events taking place, including large concerts in Stepanakert in the evenings.

Organisers also took advantage of the two rest days to show off the best of Artsakh to those who have travelled out to watch and report on the tournament.

On Wednesday 5 June, teams, referees, volunteers, press and the CONIFA Executive Committee travelled to Shushi, the cultural capital of Artsakh. The day trip began with a visit to the State Museum of Fine Arts, Sculpture Grove, and the Money Museum.

After soaking up some art and history, the trip made its way to the spectacular Canyon of Hunot, offering breathtaking vistas and plenty of photo opportunities for the participants.

For lunch, an enormous picnic of Artsakh delicacies was laid on in a park on the outskirts of Shushi. Players, press and Artsakhians alike danced to folk music – fuelled by plenty of local wine.

Journalists had the chance to interview Grigori Martirosyan, State Minister of the Republic of Artsakh, and Narine Aghabalyan, Minister of Education, Science and Sport, who also led toasts with the picnic guests.

The evening offered the chance for some slightly more relaxed football at the Stepanakert stadium, with the now-legendary CONIFA vs Media game, in which the Media ran out winners in a penalty shoot-out after an entertaining 4-4 draw.

The press were treated to another rest day on Friday 7 June, with volunteers taking many of the visiting press around some of the most important historical sites in the country.

The day began with a quick look around Stepanakert’s open-air market, and trying some zhengyalov hats –the herby bread that can be found everywhere in Artsakh. The press then proceeded to Gandzasar, a 10th-century hilltop monastery, offering amazing panoramas around the region.

A bumpy minibus ride followed, culminating in Tigranakert. Here, they looked around the 18th-century castle hosting an exhibition on this ruined, pre-Christian city built by Tigran the Great, as well as the excavation site itself.

All participants enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the country, which has hosted a fantastic tournament.

Abkhazia 0 – 0 Chameria (Abkhazia 5-4 on penalties)

Author: Olaf JensenImage credit: Brad Merrett

Abkhazia beat Chameria on penalties in an often bad-tempered third-place playoff in Stepanakert, during which the beautiful game was not much in evidence.

Chameria, who often rely on the talents of the enormous striker Marko van Basten Çema, had much of their passing game nullified by the strong Abkhazian midfield; despite a few penetrating runs, Chameria’s nifty number 10, Gjoka, was prevented from slicing balls over through to Çema.

Abkhazia saw most of the early action, forcing the Chameria keeper into lightning-fast saves on several occasions – but proving vulnerable on the break to the quick Chamerian attackers.

After around 20 minutes, Çema – a fast, defence-splitting presence – lofted a near ball over to Gjeci, who was marginally too slow to reach it, almost completing a perfect counter.

And this momentum sapped Abkhazia’s discipline – a slew of sloppy, foul-tempered tackles earned them two yellow cards within two minutes. Indeed, the half ended with the two teams openly fighting – adding more names to the referee’s book.

Abkhazia brought on Maskaev at half time to bolster their attacking threat. He made an instant impact, adding a fresh dynamism to the pitch, and claiming one of the game’s best chances when he cut inside and fired straight at the keeper.

But the conflict resumed after an hour passed. A high kick to the back of an Abkhazian player saw Zaimi sent off, while Baholli – himself a substitute – was replaced via a green card.

Down to 10 men and their game plan in tatters, Chameria became increasingly reckless, but paradoxically gained a new vibrancy through the fast-paced winger Hasa, who repeatedly combined well with Marko van Basten Çema and Gjoka.

Their counterattacking skill – which nearly resulted in a goal after a perfect cross by Hasa to Çema was tipped over by the keeper – was not enough, and the more numerous Abkhazians took control of the game.

With penalties looming, both teams looked increasingly sloppy, barely keeping hold of possession; Abkhazia were unable to make the most of their advantage.

So third-place would be decided by penalties. Both teams were level until Çema missed his attempt, allowing captain Khugaev the platform to score slot his past the keeper, and secure the bronze medal for Abkhazia.

CONIFA meet President Bako Sahakyan in Stepanakert

On Friday 7 June, a delegation from CONIFA met with Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan and members of his government. The meeting, which lasted for 45 minutes, was a chance for CONIFA President Per-Anders Blind to express his gratitude to the Artsakh government and people for their hospitality and generosity in hosting the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019.

President Sahakyan expressed his view that CONIFA is much more than just a football organisation. Where diplomacy has failed for decades, he said, CONIFA make it possible for people-to-people interaction to happen – and thus foster friendly relations between people around the world.

President Sahakyan has told the head of the OSCE Minsk Group, which is negotiating across the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, that the group should take a close look at CONIFA and its actions, because it is more efficiently softening the isolation Artsakh suffers from than official diplomacy ever can.

The President also thanked CONIFA for coming to Artsakh and added that he was grateful to all the teams, who have brought so much to the tournament. He also mentioned that he hoped to attend CONIFA World Football Cup tournament, so he can hopefully meet again all of his new friends from around the world.

CONIFA thank the President, his government and all the people of Artsakh for the incredible welcome they have received while staying in the region for the tournament.

South Ossetia 0 – 0 Chameria (South Ossetia win 6-5 on penalties)

South Ossetia progressed to the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup final after a nail-biting 6-5 penalty shoot-out win over Chameria. Sunday’s game will be their first ever final in a CONIFA tournament.

Askeran City Stadium played host to an intriguing semi-final between two teams who most would not have tipped to progress beyond the group stages. South Ossetia and Chameria came into the tournament as unknown quantities, but have entertained crowds in Artsakh with some scintillating football.

The first half was not pretty, with plenty of niggly fouls breaking up the play and preventing either side from getting into any real passing rhythm. There were plenty of speculative shots from distance, but nothing that caused the goalkeepers too much concern.

One of Chameria’s star men this tournament, striker Marko van Basten Cema, was convinced he had won a penalty, but was ruled to have been in an offside position by the referee’s assistant. His opposite number, South Ossetian forward Ibragim Bazaev, whistled a shot just over the crossbar.

A flurry of late first-half chances gave both sides cause for optimism, including a great run and shot from South Ossetian star man Batradz Gurtsiev, and a rapid Chameria counter-attack which Cema couldn’t capitalise on.

The teams reverted to the first-half malaise after the break. Bazaev’s decision to shoot from a free kick awarded in the centre circle was symbolic of a lack of creativity, which could be perhaps be forgiven after their gruelling group campaigns this week. The ever-present striker almost managed to divert home a huge punt downfield by his keeper Muharbeg Buraev.

Cema’s strike partner Samet Gjoka shot just wide after a neat turn, whilst Dzhambolat Hastayev shot just over for South Ossetia in stoppage time, but the match went to penalties, which had seemed inevitable.

The penalty shoot-out was one of the highest quality, with 11 of the 14 kicks giving the keeper no chance whatsoever. A ‘panenka’ from Cema when he had to score to keep Chameria in it was audacious in the extreme. His teammate Boci Xhorxhian had his attempt saved by Buraev however, who dived low to his right, to spark wild celebrations for the South Ossetians.

South Ossetia 0 – 0 Chameria (South Ossetia win 6-5 on penalties)

Image: David Kagramanyan

South Ossetia progressed to the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup final after a nail-biting 6-5 penalty shoot-out win over Chameria. Sunday’s game will be their first ever final in a CONIFA tournament.

Askeran City Stadium played host to an intriguing semi-final between two teams who most would not have tipped to progress beyond the group stages. South Ossetia and Chameria came into the tournament as unknown quantities, but have entertained crowds in Artsakh with some scintillating football.

The first half was not pretty, with plenty of niggly fouls breaking up the play and preventing either side from getting into any real passing rhythm. There were plenty of speculative shots from distance, but nothing that caused the goalkeepers too much concern.

One of Chameria’s star men this tournament, striker Marko van Basten Cema, was convinced he had won a penalty, but was ruled to have been in an offside position by the referee’s assistant. His opposite number, South Ossetian forward Ibragim Bazaev, whistled a shot just over the crossbar.

A flurry of late first-half chances gave both sides cause for optimism, including a great run and shot from South Ossetian star man Batradz Gurtsiev, and a rapid Chameria counter-attack which Cema couldn’t capitalise on.

The teams reverted to the first-half malaise after the break. Bazaev’s decision to shoot from a free kick awarded in the centre circle was symbolic of a lack of creativity, which could be perhaps be forgiven after their gruelling group campaigns this week. The ever-present striker almost managed to divert home a huge punt downfield by his keeper Muharbeg Buraev.

Cema’s strike partner Samet Gjoka shot just wide after a neat turn, whilst Dzhambolat Hastayev shot just over for South Ossetia in stoppage time, but the match went to penalties, which had seemed inevitable.

The penalty shoot-out was one of the highest quality, with 11 of the 14 kicks giving the keeper no chance whatsoever. A ‘panenka’ from Cema when he had to score to keep Chameria in it was audacious in the extreme. His teammate Boci Xhorxhian had his attempt saved by Buraev however, who dived low to his right, to spark wild celebrations for the South Ossetians.

Artsakh 2 – 1 Szekely Land

Image credit: Karo Sahakyan

In Martuni, Artsakh and Szekley Land played out their placement game at the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Cup 2019. Artsakh were looking to get back into winning ways – even if it was just to go through to fight for 5th place – in front of their home supporters. Szekley Land wanted to find their first win of the tournament. All of this was played out in front of a large crowd on a sweltering afternoon.

The first half started slowly, with Artsakh creating a chance after few seconds… but the shot flew wide. The rhythm of the game was a laboured in the heat with Szekely Land having the best chance of the half with a low cross from the right. The ball was deflected and hit the post, from where Barna shot. The keeper made a great save, and a second later saved again from Botona’s attempted tap in. And that was it until half time, with both teams without much in the way of chances.

The second half began quickly with a decent attempt for Artsakh. Shakhkeledyan made a solo run against the keeper, but was brought down by Norbert, who was promptly booked. The deadlock was finally broken in the 62nd minute; Barna collected a deep ball, got into the area and shot from the side. This time Khatchatryan could do nothing and Szekley Land took the lead.

There was an immediate reaction from Artsakh. After some decent chances for the home team, they are awarded a penalty… which was coolly converted to make it 1-1.

In the 78th minute, Szekley Land went down to 10 men after Attila’s high elbow saw him get sent off. And with the last chance of the game, Artsakh scored. A cross from the right was swept in, the ball was controlled by Danielyan and his take was strong enough to beat the keeper. 2-1 and Artsakh go on to play for 5th place on Saturday 8 June.

Sapmi make inspirational trip to school

Image credit: Brad Merrett

Participating CONIFA team Sapmi, visited a local school in Artsakh today, to help the children studying there take their minds off their end-of-year exams.

The entire squad visited School Number 2 in Artsakh, where players, coaches and staff took time to speak to youngsters who all had their exam results in their hands. The players posed for photos with the school children, who were thrilled at the visit of an international football team to their school for the first time ever.

After a group photo, the players then visited the kindergarten year groups at the school, who greeted the players with traditional Artsakhian songs. Sapmi then performed one of their own traditional chants for the children before more photographs with the teachers.

In true CONIFA spirit, Sapmi also presented the school principal with a pennant to be put on display in the school as a reminder of the tournament and the visit from the Sapmi squad.

Sapmi are in action later today, as they face Padania in a placement game. Kick-off is at 6pm in Martakert. Watch all the action on mycujoo.tv

Padania 4-0 Sapmi

Author: Olaf JensenImage credit: Jacopo de Falco

Padania’s dominant performance disguised a dreary placement match in which Sapmi were totally prevented from building any momentum.

Padania scored after just 10 minutes, Niccolo Colombo driving a low shot through the hapless Sapmi defence.

Although Sapmi managed to turn this last-ditch defending into a series of credible counterattacks, they were too ponderous on the ball, and rarely looked like threatening the Padanian goal.

Their best chances fell to Benjamin Zakrisson sending a shot over the crossbar after a nice move by Mannsverk and Jannok, then skipping over the keeper moments later, only for the ball to be wrenched away by a Padanian defender.

It was not enough to wrest the momentum away from Padania, however.

The second half was more of the same – it was all Padania, all the time. Within minutes of kick-off, they added a second through a rising header from Corno.

Sapmi were barely allowed to play any football, and became clumsier with every passing minute, exemplified by a poor tackle on Niccolo Pavan by Kristoffer Edvardsen which earned Padania a penalty, coolly converted by Ravasi.

For a while, the game lost all urgency. Sapmi defended in numbers, soaking up most of Padanian pressure – admittedly, a relaxed sort of pressure – and only once conjuring up a noteworthy attack, when Samuli Laitila made a big run and sent a big shot into the side netting.

Padania finally added their fourth, when Corno muscled passed everyone a slotted in his second of the match.

With the result wrapped up, the players simply wafted around the pitch until full time.

Abkhazia 1-1 Western Armenia (Western Armenia win 3-0 on penalties)

Image credit: Gevorg Ghazaryan

Western Armenia progressed to the final of the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup after beating Abkhazia 3-0 on penalties.

Abkhazia opened the scoring against the run of play. Khugaev twisted and turned his way into the penalty area, before poking the ball beyond the goalkeeper to break the deadlock.

Western Armenia worked their way back into the game and won a controversial penalty midway through the first half. A Western Armenian forward was touched in the area and the contact was deemed enough to award a penalty.

Davit Manoyan stepped up and slotted the ball into the bottom corner to level the semi-final tie.

The second half was a tense affair, with Western Armenia failing to exploit the spaces in the Abkhazian defence when it mattered most.

Abkhazia’s chances were few and far between but they were willing to be patient for their opportunity. Their patience was nearly rewarded on 70 minutes when Pimpya cut in from the wing to force a fine save from the Western Armenian goalkeeper.

Both teams pushed for a late winner but the game went to penalties after 90 minutes.

Abkhazia missed all of their penalties whilst Western Armenia scored all three to earn a place in the final in front of thousands of fans to send the stadium into euphoria.

Heritage Cup Up For Grabs After Weekend Games

Image credit: Mark Parsons

Whilst the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 was getting into full swing in Artsakh over the weekend, three more of our member FAs were in match action in Yorkshire.

The Heritage Cup got underway with the first two of the three games in the competition, with Yorkshire hosting Parishes of Jersey and Chagos Islands.
 
YORKSHIRE IFA 1-0 PARISHES OF JERSEY
Saturday’s match saw the hosts take on a lively Parishes of Jersey side, in what turned out to be a keenly contested game, settled right at the death.
The Jersey players had a host of chances through the game, with Jake Prince cannoning a low shot off the post on 12 minutes after being set up by Karl Hinds.
And the woodwork was to come to Parishes of Jersey’s rescue on the half hour mark, as Yorkshire centre half Matthew Dempsey curling a free kick against the bar.
Four minutes later, and visiting midfielder Adam Trotter should have scored, but pulled his shot off target from a great position.
Powerful midfielder Luke Watson had chances either side of half time, as the two teams continued to trade chances, but the game was to come to a dramatic conclusion.
Hinds had had a shot cleared off the line before, at the other end, Yorkshire grabbed all three points.
A free kick into the box dropped to the feet of Brodie Litchfield, who slotted home.
Time was running out for the visitors, and home goalkeeper Kyle Trennery pulled off an outstanding stop to deny Watson.
And Watson was to see red in a late fracas, as an entertaining game finished in favour of the home side.
CHAGOS ISLANDS 2-9 PARISHES OF JERSEY
Sunday’s game saw Chagos Islands make the long trip up from Sussex to take on Parishes of Jersey, who made a number of changes after Saturday’s narrow defeat.
Chagos Islands were to quickly fall two goals behind in the first nine minutes, as Kieran Lester tapped home from a corner before Karl Hinds capitalised on a defensive mistake to make it two.
But the Chagossians quickly got back into the game, as Steven Leelah beat the offside trap to slot home past the goalkeeper.
And the lively forward stunned Parishes of Jersey when he made it two all not long afterwards, stabbing home at the far post.
That saw Parishes of Jersey step it up a couple of gears and, whilst Chagos Islands were full of endeavour and energy, they were unable to prevent their opponents going two in front by half time.
Lester got his second to make it 3-2 with a curling effort, before completing his hat-trick as he wriggled to make space and beat the keeper to his right.
If Chagos Islands had plenty to do at this stage, their challenge became harder when Desire Sambouag received a second yellow three minutes after the restart.
And Parishes of Jersey took full advantage in the last forty minutes of the game.
Four minutes after the red card, Tom Harris made it 5-2 with a fierce finish from close range and, whilst he was denied by the offside flag four minutes after that, he did make it 6 just after the hour.
Luke Watson headed the ball down and Harris unleashed a fierce shot into the top right corner.
Chagos Islands were endeavouring to repel the constant waves of attacks from their opponents, but fell 7-2 behind as Harris completed a fifteen minute hat-trick with another fine finish.
Harris then had a shot blocked on the line, which Hinds turned in for 8-2, but it wasn’t until right at the end that the scoring was completed, as Watson headed home to beat the keeper.
WHAT NEXT?
The winners of the Heritage Cup will be confirmed soon, with Yorkshire and Chagos Islands set to fix a date for the remaining fixture in the competition.

A draw or better will see Yorkshire take the silverware.

Padania 1-1 Western Armenia

Image credit: David Kagramanyan

Western Armenia progressed to the semi-finals of the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup after a 1-1 draw with Padania, which sends the holders out of the competition at the group stage.

This much-anticipated Group B encounter in Stepanakert was tantalisingly poised, with both sides level on points and goal difference heading into the fixture. Padania knew they needed a win to progress, whilst Western Armenia needed only a draw, courtesy of their superior number of goals scored.

The first half was one of few clear-cut chances, with speculative shots from distance representing the majority of both sides’ attempts on goal. Tempers were beginning to fray between the sides, with three yellow cards awarded as both sets of players struggled to find an early breakthrough.

Western Armenia had the best opportunities, with Raffi Kaya blazing over from an inviting free kick delivery, and an incredible double save by Federico Delfrate in the Padania goal after Arman Aslanyan’s cross caused all sorts of problems.
The crowd favourites stepped up the pressure early in the second half with Aslanyan scuffing his shot from point blank range, with the goal at his mercy. Delfrate also made another wonder save from a Davit Hovsepyan header which was destined for the top corner.

With the score still locked at 0-0 midway through the second period, the match exploded into life. First, Artur Yedigaryan crashed in a powerful strike from the edge of the box to put Western Armenia in front. Less than a minute later, Padania went up the other end of the pitch and got back on terms immediately. Nicolo Colombo headed home from close range to make for a nail-biting conclusion.

Padania piled bodies forward in search of a winner but couldn’t find a way past Gevorg Kasparov. The Western Armenia keeper produced a superb save from Alessandro Moretti. Western Armenia failed to capitalise on several counter attacks, but in the end the point was enough to take them through to the knockout phase. And Padania will take their place in the placement games of the tournament for the first time ever, having won the two previous European Football Cups.

Artsakh 1-1 Abkhazia

Author: Olaf JensenImage credit: Brad Merrett

Hosts Artsakh were eliminated from the tournament by a robust Abkhazia side after failing to capitalise on a dominant second half in front of a passionate crowd in Martuni.

Artsakh needed a strong result to qualify, and they started the game full of intent – particularly their surprisingly nimble winger, the stocky Marat Karapetyan, who made his presence felt on a series of marauding runs. He was nearly the game’s first casualty, however, clattering Dgbuadze to the ground and earning a yellow card for his troubles.

The well-drilled and strong Abkhazia side proved too much for Arstakh in the game’s early stages, with the potent winger Shabat Logua dominating the left flank and the robust defence smothering Artsakh’s attempts to counter.

This paid off after just 10 minutes when Logua – always deadly cutting inside – scored with a low shot past the Artsakh keeper.

Despite the best efforts of the home crowd, Artsakh were playing with increasing desperation, becoming ill-disciplined on the ball. Norik Mkrtchyan, playing in his home town in front of his own parents, made a clumsy run into the box, and responded with an even clumsier challenge on the man who stole the ball away.

Once Artsakh calmed down, they seized the momentum. Latching onto a ball played on the counter, Mkrtchyan sent a powerful shot ricocheting off the inside post and into the net – an equaliser that delighted his hometown crowd.

Artsakh closed the half high on confidence, dented only slightly when Abkhazia’s Malyaka, given a clear run on goal, seemed to have restored their lead – unfortunately for the visitors, he was well offside.

The hosts started the second half on the front foot, with fine interplay between Karapetayan and Mayriyan creating a constant threat in the Abkhazian half. However, Artsakh dithered in the middle of the field too often, and Abkhazia’s robust defenders soaked up most of their attempts to build through the centre.

Despite constant pressure – Abkhazia had few attempts in the second half – Artsakh were unable to conjure up an equaliser, and even the best efforts of Martuni’s favourite son weren’t enough to prevent Abkhazia from eliminating Artsakh from the group.

South Ossetia 2 – 2 Szekely Land

Image credit: Gevorg Ghazaryan

In the last game of their group, South Ossetia faced Szekely Land at Askeran. The sides were in two very different places; South Ossetia needed to win to secure a place in the semi finals; Szekely Land, after losing the first two games, only now have the placement matches to look forward to. The team, which hasn’t scored a single goal so far in the tournament, and has shipped 9, was looking to finish the European Football Cup 2019 with a win.

In the first moments, South Ossetia took control of the game but it was Szekley Land who got close to opening the scoring: in the 20th minute, Balint collected a ball at the edge of the area, but his shot went inches wide. Five minutes later, South Ossetia get close to breaking the deadlock. The Szekely Land keeper failed to collect an easy cross, and the ball landed at Beteev’s feet… who incredibly misses the target.

On the counter, Szkely Land almost made it 1-0 – but the ball was saved on the line. And the first half finished with a shot from long range by Djudjoev, which ends up a few inches away from the goal, leaving the match poised at 0-0.

Only seven minutes after the second half begins, and Szekely Land score. Right back Ghinea dribbles past three South Ossetia players before delivering the ball into the area. Vekas receives the ball and shoots: 1-0 for Szekely Land.

The response from South Ossetia arrived in the 63rd minute. A shot deflected becames an assist for Beteev. The striker incredibly misses the target, and the ball flies over the crossbar. Two minutes later, Szekely Land had two big chances to double the lead. First the volley shot from Benko-Biro hits the crossbar, and one minute later, the South Ossetia keeper is called on to make a miracle save on a shot from inside the box.

With 72 minutes on the clock, South Ossetia finally gets the equaliser. A cross comes in from the right which finds Gurtsiev; his header is precise enough to beat the keeper and level the score.

The goal enlivens South Ossetia, which creates a couple of chances but the players are not able to convert them. Surprisingly, Szekely Land go ahead again. On a counter attack, the men in blue attack, the keeper saves – but Kovacs is able to tap it in. The team’s 2-1 lead lasts only a matter of seconds as Gurtsiev finds himself in front of the keeper and makes it 2-2 in the 83rd minute.

The final minutes of the game saw both sides trying to find the winner. But it’s not enough; the match ends 2-2.

Chameria 4 – 0 Sapmi

Image credit: Jacopo de Falco

Chameria earned themselves a place in the knockout stages after a comfortable win over Sapmi. First half goals from Vilson Anzim and a brace from lively forward Edmond Hoxha saw the side comfortably progress to the finals.

It was in the opening minutes when Chameria opened the scoring. A swift attack saw the ball fall kindly to Anzim in the Sapmi area, who turned his effort into the bottom corner. This set the tempo for the Chameria side who controlled the first half.

Moving the ball quickly around the Martakert pitch, Chameria continued to press. Their patience was rewarded midway through the first half as Hoxha grabbed his first of the afternoon. The forward fired home after being left unmarked in the area at the back post.

The stop in play also signalled the first drinks break of the afternoon, as the humidity soon sapped the energy of both sides as the game went on. Chameria grabbed their third on the stroke of half time, with the impressive Hoxha causing all sorts of problems for the Sapmi defence. He rolled the ball under the Sapmi goalkeeper after being played through one-on-one.

Sapmi grew into the game in the second half with youngster Johan Ante Eira having the best opportunity to grab his side’s first goal of the competition. He rounded the keeper but blazed over with the goal gaping.

Sapmi rued their missed opportunity as 10 minutes from time Marko Van Basten Cema put the game beyond doubt after coolly finishing one-on-one for Chameria’s fourth of the afternoon.

CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 match officials: Monday 3 June 2019

Image credit: Gevorg Ghazaryan

CONIFA would like to express its gratitude to all match officials taking part in the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019. Today’s officials are:

Match: Sapmi – Abkhazia

Referee team: Kurdistan
Referee: Sabah Raza
Linesman 1: Diyar Zawetae
Linesman 2: Ahmed Albarzanji
4th Official: Twana Osman

Match: South Ossetia – Padania

Referee team: Donetsk
Referee: Dmitrii Zhukov
Linesman 1: Vitalii Mazin
Linesman 2: Valerii Kravchenko
4th Official: Aleksandr Demenko

Match: Chameria – Artsakh

Referee team: CoF1
Referee: Dennis Karwatzki
Linesman 1: Julian Schilling
Linesman 2: André Ahnert
4th Official: Ivan Mrkalj

Match: Szekely Land – Western Armenia
Referee team: L. Artsakh
Referee: Arkadi Akobyan
Linesman 1: Petros Karapetyan
Linesman 2: Sedrak Akobyan
4th Official: René Jacobi

Artsakh 3 – 2 Sapmi

Image credit: Brad Merrett

Artsakh opened their 2019 CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup in style with a 3-2 win over Sapmi. Goals from Karen Shakhkeloyan, Arsen Sagsyen and Dimitry Malyaka secured an historic win for Artsakh under the floodlights in Stepanakert.

The tournament hosts opened the scoring early on through Karen Shakhkeloyan after a fantastic ball from winger Maret Karapetyan. The forward coolly slotted home beyond the Sapmi goalkeeper.

Undeterred, Sapmi fought back in a ferocious game in Stepanakert. They levelled midway through the first half when Benjamin Zakrisson worked space for himself in the area before rifling low into the bottom corner, injuring himself in the process.

The big crowd at the Stepanakert Stadium entertained itself with song, dance, drums and of course, a Mexican wave. As the atmosphere reached its climax, the Artsakh players responded with a flurry of pressure.

That pressure finally counted when Arsen Sagsyen reacted first in the area to drill the ball into the far corner to restore Artsakh’s lead. The stadium was sent into raptures in front of thousands of euphoric Artsakhians. In the first time in Artsakh’s history that the region was able to hold an international football match, they were leading again.

The second half was a fiery affair, with heavy committed challenges entertaining the big crowd. The old floodlights on the stadium flickered on as the sun slowly set behind the Caucasus mountain range but the tempo remained high.

Artsakh had an effort cleared off the line 10 minutes from time as they pushed to settle the game and they got their goal five minutes from the end. Dimitry Malyaka found space in the area to push the ball home and put the game beyond Sapmi and secure the host’s first win of the tournament.

Sapmi grabbed a goal back late on but it was too late as Artsakh strolled to victory.

“It’s started! An official press conference kicks off the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019” is locked It’s started! An official press conference kicks off the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019

The CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 is set to begin its footballing action today. Prior to yesterday’s dazzling opening ceremony in Stepanakert, the official opening press conference for the tournament was held.

The press conference took place at the new, dedicated media centre in Stepanakert, which will give the press an ideal base from which to report. The assembled press put questions to representatives of CONIFA and the Artsakh government.

CONIFA President Per-Anders Blind described it as a “huge honour” to be in Artsakh. “We are really amazed by the welcome we have received. This week, we are here to celebrate our members and the beauty of Artsakh.”

Grigori Martirosyan, the State Minister for the Republic of Artsakh expressed his happiness that his country was hosting its “first large-scale event”. He said that he and his government were doing all they could to make sure that the tournament was as enjoyable as possible for the people of Artsakh and for the many guests who have travelled out to the south Caucasus to follow the event.

The Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Narine Aghabalyan, described how Artsakh had “built bridges” with other member teams during the organisation of the tournament over recent months. “I think this is the mission of CONIFA – to create friendships.”

CONIFA’s Europe President, Alberto Rischio, and Sascha Duerköp, the General Secretary also offered their thoughts to the assembled press. Duerköp reiterated the CONIFA philosophy, saying that “politics should never be used to exclude people from sport”. He also commented that the organisation had been asked to cancel the tournament, but never considered doing so. “We are happy to discuss and have open relations with anyone”, but he said the organisation would not bow to pressure.

With more than 100 journalists having been accredited for the tournament, there will be no shortage of coverage of events in Artsakh around the world. CONIFA will be providing daily coverage on our website and through our social media channels, whilst the games will be streamed by our streaming partner Mycujoo – watch here.

The CONIFA Sportsbet.io CONIFA European Football Cup 2019 opens in style in Stepanakert

Author: Olaf Jensen; Image credit: Gevorg Ghazaryan

There was no clearer sign of how much the small, mountainous Republic of Artsakh has embraced the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 than at the opening ceremony. The whole of Stepanakert, the capital city, was alive with activity, the way to the stadium packed with families, officials, soldiers and visitors, and the grass verges overlooking the stadium thronging with Artsakhians eager to take part in the ceremony.

Inside the stadium there was already a party atmosphere, but the crowd was given an extra lease of life by the energetic warm-up act (even the government figures took part in the Mexican wave) and a dramatic performance by singer Vardan Bardalyan, accompanied by the ‘We Are Our Mountains’ dance ensemble.

But first, the formalities. All eight competing teams marched down the running track – here, it was obvious how proud the people of Artsakh are to welcome these athletes to the their countries – but the biggest cheers were predictably reserved for Western Armenia and Artsakh themselves.

President of the Republic of Artsakh, Bako Sahakyan, spoke of “an important event in the life of Artsakh”, praising the “rigorous and hard work” of the tournament organisers and volunteers.

“Football,” he said, “unites people, builds friendship [and] fosters humanitarian contact.” There was a sense of immense pride from the entire stadium when he expressed his hope that the Artsakhian athletes taking part could be a source of inspiration for the entire country.

And on a night on which the footballing world’s attention was fixed on the UEFA Champions’ League final in Madrid, CONIFA President Per-Anders Blind had a different perspective: “Tonight the capital of Europe is Stepanakert” – a sentiment echoed by CONIFA’s Europe President, Alberto Rischio.

Then the festivities truly began. The ceremony was a real celebration of Artsakhian culture and identity, and the country’s shared heritage with Armenia, characterised by a blend of modernity and tradition.

And of course, a celebration of football. The CONIFA official anthem was a crowd-pleaser, but even more so was the young boy performing keepy-uppies in the centre circle for the entire duration.

Then we had traditional Armenian and Artsakhian instruments, the young piano maestro Anahit Arushanyan, a tribute to French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour by Oxana Baburyan, and Armenia’s answer to the Gipsy Kings, Manolo and the Gipsy Gitanes, putting in a rousing performance of Bamboléo, all held together by trilingual banter between the three hosts, representing Artsakh, Armenia, and the huge diaspora around the world.

But the highlight was undoubtedly Sirusho, one of the most famous and popular Armenian-language singers – and the country’s representative at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. Her set, rapturously received by screams and cheers, blended Armenian religious and historical themes with contemporary modern pop.

Closing the ceremony was Artur Grigoryan, the legendary Armenian singer and pianist, joined by percussionist Erna in a composition written specially for the tournament, simply titled Artsakh. And as the fireworks began to unfold over the stadium, it was a fitting end to an incredible night.

CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 match officials: Sunday 2 June 2019

Image credit: Con Chronis

CONIFA would like to express its gratitude to all the match officials taking part in the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019. Today’s officials are:
Western Armenia – South Ossesia

Referee team: Kurdistan
Referee: Twana Osman
Linesman 1: Ahmed Albarzanji
Linesman 2: Diyar Zawetae
4th official: Sabah Raza

Artsakh – Sapmi
Referee team: Donetsk
Referee: Dmitrii Zhukov
Linesman 1: Vitalii Mazin
Linesman 2: Valerii Kravchenko
4th official: Aleksandr Demenko

Padania – Szekely Land
Referee team: Cof1
Referee: Ivan Mrkalj
Linesman 1: André Ahnert
Linesman 2: Julian Schilling
4th official: Dennis Karwatzki

Match: Abkhazia – Chameria
Referee team: Armenia
Referee: Arkadi Akobyan
Linesman 1: Sedrak Akobyan
Linesman 2: Petros Karapetyan
4th official: Roger Lunbäck

It’s started! An official press conference kicks off the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019

Image credit: Liam Potter

The CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 is set to begin its footballing action today. Prior to yesterday’s dazzling opening ceremony in Stepanakert, the official opening press conference for the tournament was held.

The press conference took place at the new, dedicated media centre in Stepanakert, which will give the press an ideal base from which to report. The assembled press put questions to representatives of CONIFA and the Artsakh government.

CONIFA President Per-Anders Blind described it as a “huge honour” to be in Artsakh. “We are really amazed by the welcome we have received. This week, we are here to celebrate our members and the beauty of Artsakh.”

Grigori Martirosyan, the State Minister for the Republic of Artsakh expressed his happiness that his country was hosting its “first large-scale event”. He said that he and his government were doing all they could to make sure that the tournament was as enjoyable as possible for the people of Artsakh and for the many guests who have travelled out to the south Caucasus to follow the event.

The Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Narine Aghabalyan, described how Artsakh had “built bridges” with other member teams during the organisation of the tournament over recent months. “I think this is the mission of CONIFA – to create friendships.”

CONIFA’s Europe President, Alberto Rischio, and Sascha Duerköp, the General Secretary also offered their thoughts to the assembled press. Duerköp reiterated the CONIFA philosophy, saying that “politics should never be used to exclude people from sport”. He also commented that the organisation had been asked to cancel the tournament, but never considered doing so. “We are happy to discuss and have open relations with anyone”, but he said the organisation would not bow to pressure.

With more than 100 journalists having been accredited for the tournament, there will be no shortage of coverage of events in Artsakh around the world. CONIFA will be providing daily coverage on our website and through our social media channels, whilst the games will be streamed by our streaming partner Mycujoo – watch here.

Abkhazia 3-1 Chameria

Author: Olaf Jensen; Image credit: Brad Merrett

Despite a poor first half, former World Football Cup champions Abkhazia recovered to emerge as 3-1 winners in the first match of the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019, against the mountainous backdrop of Askeran.

The match was a physical affair from the beginning, pitting the taller Chamerians against the more robust Abkhazians, and at first Chameria’s fast-paced passing game was too much for their opponents.

Chameria used this height to good advantage, with Kevis Gjeçi beating his marker and narrowly heading over from a corner early in the half.

But it was from one of Chameria’s marauding counter-attacking moves that midfielder Fravjo Prendi tapped in the opener – the first goal of the tournament.

With Chameria dominating the early stages, Abkhazia had to resort to sloppy balls high into the box, which were ably dealt with by captain Feliks Cane and goalkeeper Fatjon Collari.

However, despite their passing game often outwitting the Abkhazians, Chameria’s forwards were lacking an end product – particularly the gangly striker Marko van Basten Çema, who unfortunately failed to live up to his prestigious namesake.

By half-time, Abkhazia were struggling to leave an impression. It didn’t take them long to remedy this.

Within moments of the referee’s whistle, Abkhazia equalised, a powerful headed goal by Dmitry Maskaev leaving the Chamerians completely nonplussed – too confused, evidently, to stop another dramatic run, a low cross into the box by Timur Agrba and another goal tapped in by Shabat Logua. After just three minutes, it was 2-1 to Abkhazia.

The momentum was now with Abkhazia. Viktor Pimpiia and Naskaev combined nicely to trouble the Chamerian defence, and Logua was a fearsome counterattacking presence on the flank.

And it was Logua’s rifled shot that eventually sealed the win for Abkhazia – although it was a stroke of luck that the Chameria free kick that led to the goal kick from which came the goal barely lanced over the crossbar.

Abkhazia’s confidence nearly threatened to derail them: diving in search of a penalty, Timur Agrba was taken off by an enforced substitution from a green card, while Taras Khagba was shown yellow for a bad foul.

But they held on, and despite a late period of pressure by Chameria, including a poor miss inches out by Marko van Basten Çema, Abkhazia’s second-half dominance ensured their 3-1 victory.

Thank you to CONIFA’s referee teams

CONIFA would like to thank all referees taking part in the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019. They are:

Kurdistan

Ahmed Sabah Radha Ahmed

Albarazanchi Ahmed Jalal Ibrahim

Almizori Diyar Abduljabar Haji

Mohammed Twana Othman Mohammed

Donetsk – Donbass

Dmytro Zhukov

Valera Kravchenko

Vitalii Mazin

Aleksandr Demenko

Germany Cof

Dennis Karwatzki

Ivan Mrkalj

André Ahnert

Julian Schilling

Thank you to all for your support!

Show Your Support This Summer!

The hotly anticipated CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019 gets underway in Artsakh this weekend, as eight member FAs aim to take home the silverware.

The tournament’s fixtures get started on Sunday 2nd June and you can look the part with merchandise from one of the competing teams!

We’ve joined up with Batemans Sports to help you get your hands on replica shirts and zip tops from the eight FAs participating in Artsakh.

To get hold of yours, visit https://www.batemanssports.co.uk/conifa/ and make your choice!