Go to the Football World Cup Finals… in London

CONIFA football

Okay, so let’s get one thing clear to start with: it is not the FIFA Football World Cup.  Instead, I am talking about the ConIFA World Cup.  That is the Confederation of Independent Football Associations.  ConIFA is the international governing body for all the non-FIFA affiliated football associations from around the world and, this year, its World Cup is being held in London.


ConIFA is an apolitical organisation and, under the banner of simply playing football, it brings together peoples from 48 territories, many of which are not officially recognised.

Teams competing in the 2018 World Cup include hosts Barawa, a territory within Somalia and represented by members of the Somali diaspora in England; Ellan Vannin, a team from the Isle of Man; Tamil Eelam, which draws its players from the Tamil diaspora; Cascadia, from the western seaboard of the USA and Canada; Abkhazia, current ConIFA World Cup champions, and a disputed territory adjoining the Black Sea; Northern Cyprus; Tibet; Kárpátalja, representing the Hungarian minority in southwestern Ukraine; Tuvalu, in the South Pacific; Székely Land, representing ethnic Hungarians in Romania; Padania, originating from the north of Italy; Matabeleland, from western Zimbabwe, although their involvement may rely on the success of a crowdfunding page to pay for the players’ airfares; United Koreans in Japan; Panjab, the ConIFA number one ranked team; Western Armenia; and Kabylie, from northern Algeria.

People of Lancashire will probably be pleased to know that the Yorkshire International Football Team joined ConIFA too late to be considered to be eligible for the current tournament.

In past tournaments, some teams have been forced to field fewer than the regulation 11 players, simply because they have not had enough eligible players available to represent their region.

However, in total, the ConIFA teams represent over 300 million people around the globe.

When and where

The tournament runs from 31 May to 9 June.  Games take place at eleven stadiums across Greater London.

The opening matches kick off at 12PM on 31 May at Sutton United’s Gander Green Lane stadium, at Enfield Town’s Queen Elizabeth II stadium, at Haringey Borough’s Coles Park stadium, and at Carshalton Athletic’s Colston Avenue stadium; the official opening ceremony takes place at 7PM on 31 May at Bromley’s Hayes Lane stadium; and the closing ceremony and final take place from 3PM on 9 June at Enfield’s QEII stadium.

A full schedule of matches can be found on the ConIFA website.

ConIFA versus FIFA

The ConIFA World Cup has many advantages over its more illustrious counterpart.

It’s not so far to travel.  Moreover, plenty of tickets for matches are still available, and tickets are cheap: adult tickets starting at £11; under 18s getting in for £5.50.

The possibility of football hooliganism is limited; they’ll be no tedious arguments about the merits, or otherwise, of VAR (video assistant referee) technology––it is not being used; and for those worried about catering, it is recognised that Sutton do a nice line in pre-, post-, and even in-match pies!

Plus, with no England taking part, there will be none of the usual unfeasible hopes and bitter disappointments, which accompany most other international football tournaments.

Pick your sides

So, who are you going to support?  The high rankers from northern India and eastern Pakistan?  The favourites from northern Italy?  The underdogs from the South Pacific?  The local(ish) lads from the Isle of Man?  Or the defending champions from the Caucasus?

Whoever you decide to get behind, the chances are that you are going to have to buy yourself a new team shirt to show your support.

Sport and diplomacy

Want to know more about sport and diplomacy?

SOAS University of London run a module Sport and Diplomacy: More than a Game on three degrees run by the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD): MA International Studies and Diplomacy, MSc Global Corporations and Policy, and MSc Global Energy and Climate Policy.

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