Have you ever seen this before?
You’re a superstar with all the moves and skills, but there’s only one problem a problem – you’re stateless. What’s the solution? The ConIFA World Football Cup, which this year is hosted by the Saami population in the north of Sweden.
“These teams that are not allowed to be in FIFA have an incredibly strong wish to play international football – and to raise the profile of their people, tradition and history,” said Per-Anders Blind, the chairman of ConIFA, an umbrella group for football teams outside FIFA which organises the ConIFA World Football Cup.
“We give them a place in the world, so that people recognise them in a completely different way,” Blind told AFP.
Twelve countries from four continents shall compete this year. Sri Lanka’s Tamil Eelam, a minority group that has arisen after years of conflict with the government, will be there.
A personal favourite is Darfur United, made up of refugees living in camps along the Chaf-Sudan borders.
Saamis are an indigenous people whose land covers Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and north-west Russia, better known for being reindeer herders.
Quebec will also be taking off their ice skates this summer, as will as the Isle of Man.
The reigning champions and favourites are Iraqi Kurdistan. There are many Kurds in Sweden, predominantly from Iraq but also Turkey, Syria and Iran. With a population of between 35-40 million as a people, they tower above minnows such as Occitania, a people residing in Spain, Italy and France.
There was always going to be controversy. Azerbaijan’s football federation has complained to FIFA and to Swedish football authorities about the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh taking part, and the presence of Abkhasia, a disputed territory of Georgia is also contentious.
What’s up for grabs? Nothing less than the Nelson Mandela Trophy; a must for any aspiring nation.
To qualify for the tournament, teams must be drawn from regions or groups that are recognised by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) and have a strong international ranking in similar tournaments such as the 2012 VIVA World Cup, hosted by Kurdistan in northern Iraq.
Football spreads far and wide. With there yet to be a representative from our region, maybe it’s time for Torres Strait, Maori or Indigenous Australians lace up.