ConiFascination: Delving into the 2020 CONIFA World Football Cup

Introduction

2020 is a massive year for international football. Not only are the UEFA European Championships taking place at venues across the continent, with the final being held at Wembley, but the Olympic football tournament is also taking place in Japan. A gold medal being given to the winners of the event. However there is a third international competition which is also taking place this year, which also deserves some attention. A tournament which is outside of FIFA’s control, but involves teams and players who are proud to represent their people. The CONIFA World Football Cup!!

CONIFA Logo

For those of you who are unaware of CONIFA (or the Confederation of Independent Football Associations), they are an international football organisation whose members represent regions, disputed territories, indigenous peoples, minority communities etc. who are not represented by FIFA. So members such as Ellan Vannin (the Isle of Man) are in CONIFA, as well as the Mapuche people of South America, and the Korean community of Japan. Currently the organisation has 59 members from around the world, with more and more members joining up each year.

This year will see CONIFA’s fourth edition of their World Football Cup, with the first being held in 2014, and then subsequently organised every two years. In 2018, the tournament was held in southern-eastern England for the hosts Barawa, who represent the global Somali diaspora, with the Hungarian-speaking region of Ukraine, Kárpátalja, being crowned as champions after defeating Northern Cyprus after a penalty shootout.

I am fascinated by CONIFA and its members who represent various communities or regions around the world. Thus I am very interested in this edition of the World Football Cup. Naturally, I kept an eye on results two years ago, and I am keen to look at the results in this year’s competition. With a number of debut appearances from some recently-elected members, I wanted to find out more about the teams taking part in this competition, and hopefully share to you what I had found out about the members taking part.

 

2020 World Football Cup

The 2020 CONIFA World Football Cup will see 16 teams take part, in four groups of four. Just like its FIFA counterpart tournament, the top two teams in each group qualify for the knockout stage, with the eight teams eventually whittled down to two teams in the final, and the winner of said final being crowned as champions. In addition, there is also a 3rd/4th placed playoff as with the FIFA and Olympic events.

What makes this competition different, however, is the existence of ‘placement rounds’ to determine the position of each team in the tournament. Teams who fail to progress from the group stages play a series of further games to determine where they finish between 9th and 16th positions. In addition, the teams knocked out at the quarter-final stage, also play additional games to determine their placement between 5th and 8th position. This means that teams are confirmed to have more than just the minimum three group games, and keeps interest in the tournament.

For this year’s tournament, it will be held in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, with games held between the 30th May and 7th June. Originally Somaliland was chosen as host for this tournament, but in August 2019, they gave up their rights to host the tournament, and thus CONIFA designated a non-CONIFA member as hosts for this tournament, i.e. it has no designated hosts.

The number of qualifying berths for each continent was decided on the number of CONIFA members that came from that particular continent. As Europe has 30 CONIFA members, it has four qualifying spots, whilst Asia and Africa (with 12 and 9 teams respectively) have three spots. Because they have very few members from North America, South America and Oceania, they received just the single qualifying spot. The 2018 WFC champions, Kárpátalja, automatically qualified for this tournament, whilst there was a remainder ‘wild card’ spot, who would be chosen by CONIFA. Naturally the hosts would also have qualified for the tournament, but because this tournament does not have a designated host, it has meant there are now TWO ‘wild card’ spots.

Below are the groups that were drawn for the tournament, as well as a bit of further information on each member who had qualified for the 2020 CONIFA World Football Cup.

 

Group A

Chagos Islands

Chagos Islands FA

  • Region: Africa
  • Joined CONIFA: 2014
  • Finals Appearances: 2nd
  • Previous Best Performance: 12th (2016)

Information

Chagos Islands FlagThe Chagos Islands represent the displaced diaspora of the Chagos Archipelago, located in the Indian Ocean. As part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Chagosians were forcibly expelled from Diego Garcia and other islands between 1968 and 1973, so the United States of America could build a military base on Diego Garcia. Most of the displaced population either settled in the Seychelles, Mauritius or the United Kingdom.

The team was founded by British-Chagosians based in West Sussex to represent their community, although the team has subsequently expanded to include the whole Chagosian diaspora throughout the world. Originally competing in the lower reaches of English football, they moved into the NF-Board for more international games, before becoming members of CONIFA in 2014.

Past Performances

Chagos Islands competed in the 2016 World Football Cup, held in Abkhazia, an autonomous region of Georgia. There they finished bottom of their group, getting beaten 0-9 by the hosts and then 0-12 by Western Armenia. In the placement rounds, they subsequently lost to Somaliland 2-3, and then lost to Raetia (the eastern canton of Switzerland) on penalties after drawing 3-3 after 120 minutes, to finish in 12th position in the competition.

Since the 2016 WFC, Chagos Islands have only won two games in fourteen games. A 3-2 victory over Barawa in the 2016 World Unity Cup, and another 3-2 win in April 2019 in a friendly against Surrey.

 

 

Kurdistan

Kurdistan Logo

  • Region: Asia
  • Joined CONIFA: 2014
  • Finals Appearances: 3rd
  • Previous Best Performance: 6th (2014)

Information

Kurdistan FlagThe Kurdistan team represents the autonomous northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan, with their head office being based in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan of Arbil/Irbil. However, the side ultimately represents all the Kurds with the Middle East region, with around 35 to 40 million Kurds living in between Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey, as well as the Kurdish diaspora from around the world.

Founded in 2006, they initially were a member of the NF-Board before moving over to CONIFA in 2014. They were one of the strongest teams within the old system as they reached three finals of the defunct VIVA World Cup. They lost the 2009 and 2010 finals to Padania on both occasions, but finally managed to win the 2012 edition, by beating Northern Cyprus 2-1 in front of 22,000 of their own fans.

They were not one of the original 16 teams to qualify for the tournament, but replaced Western Sahara, who withdrew from the competition.

Past Performances

Kurdistan played in the very first World Football Cup in 2014, hosted by Sápmi. There they finished second in their group, behind Arameans Suryoye but ahead of Tamil Eelam. In the knockout stage, they managed to draw with eventual finalists, Ellan Vannin, by the scoreline of 1-1, but lost on penalties 2-4. In the placement rounds, they beat Occitania on penalties but lost to Padania on penalties to eventually finish 6th in the competition.

In the 2016 WFC, they won their group, scoring three goals past both the United Koreans in Japan team and Székely Land, before coming unstuck on penalties to Padania once again in the quarter finals, losing 6-7 on spot kicks. In the placement rounds, their misfortune in penalty shootouts continued as they lost to both Western Armenia and the UKJ team, to finish in 8th position for the tournament. A disappointing finish considering they were never beaten in any of their games during regulation time!

 

Panjab

Panjab Logo

  • Region: Asia
  • Joined CONIFA: 2014
  • Finals Appearances: 3rd
  • Previous Best Performance: Finalists (2016)

Information

The Panjab team represents the Punjabi diaspora from the United Kingdom, but ultimately Punjabi communities from around the world also. The Punjab region stretches across parts of eastern Pakistan and northern India, and was a province in the Sikh Empire, and later British India, before the province was partitioned in 1947 between India and Pakistan.

The Football Association of Panjab aligned itself within the boundaries of the Punjab region of the Sikh Empire, and joined CONIFA in April 2014.

Past Performances

Panjab have been one of the most successful teams in the World Football Cup, with the 2020 edition being their third tournament. In their debut WFC in 2016, they managed to reach the final of the competition. Firstly they finished top of their group, beating both Sápmi and Somaliland, before beating Western Armenia and Padania in the knockout phase. In the final, they managed to draw 1-1 with the hosts Abkhazia, but agonisingly lost 5-6 in the penalty shootout!

In the 2018 edition of the WFC, they finished in second place in their group, as they managed to defeat Kabylia and draw with the United Koreans in Japan, but ultimately lost to the group winners, Western Armenia. In the knockouts, their semi-final opponents of two years previous, Padania, gained some revenge by knocking the Punjabis out of the competition by the scoreline of 0-2. In the placement rounds, Panjab managed to hammer Barawa 5-0, before beating Cascadia on penalties to finish in 5th position in the competition. In addition, their player Kamaljit Singh was named the tournament’s top goalscorer with 6 goals.

 

Parishes of Jersey

Parishes of Jersey Logo

  • Region: Europe
  • Joined CONIFA: 2018
  • Finals Appearances: 1st
  • Previous Best Performance: N/A

Information

Jersey FlagThe Parishes of Jersey team represent the Bailiwick of Jersey, situated off the coast of Normandy, France. Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands, a chain of British Crown dependencies, which are self-governing islands that are defended by the United Kingdom, but are not actually part of it.

The Jersey team had originally applied to become a member of UEFA, but found its bid rejected by the European football organisation. As a result, it was invited to join CONIFA, which it did in September 2018. It is independent from the Jersey Football Association, which runs the official Jersey football team in the Muratti Vase and Island Games, and is still a part of the English FA. However the PoJ team has a memorandum of understanding with the JFA, and so can compete in CONIFA with its unique name (to differentiate itself from the JFA-ran Jersey team).

Past Performances

This will be PoJ’s first major CONIFA event since its acceptance in 2018. They have only played three previous games, beating Yorkshire in their first ever game, winning 2-1 at Saint Peter on Jersey. They then lost to Yorkshire 0-1, but beat the Chagos Islands 9-2 in the 2019 Atlantic Heritage Cup (held in Yorkshire), which subsequently gained them qualification to the 2020 WFC.

Prior to the tournament in Skopje, they are scheduled to play in a pre-WFC tournament held in Surrey in May 2020. Playing in the 2020 Southern Frontier Cup, they will square off against the hosts Surrey, Cascadia and Yorkshire once again.

 

Group B

Kabylia

Kabylie Logo

  • Region: Africa
  • Joined CONIFA: 2018
  • Finals Appearances: 2nd
  • Previous Best Performance: 10th (2018)

Information

Kabylie FlagThe Kabylia team represents the Kabylie people, a Berber ethnic group, located in between the Tell Atlas mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea in northern Algeria. Due to its location, it is often described as the ‘African Switzerland’. The side represents the region and its diaspora of about 10 million people worldwide.

The area speaks the Kabyle variety of the Berber language, and is one of the most industrialised parts of Algeria due to its oil and gas production. The capital of the region, Bgayet/Béjaïa, is considered Algeria’s second biggest port behind Algiers, and is the sixth biggest port on the Med.

Past Performances

The team has only competed in one World Football Cup previously, playing in the previous tournament in 2018. They finished bottom of their respective group, although they managed to earn themselves a creditable draw against the United Koreans in Japan team. In the placement rounds, they achieved an impressive penalty shootout victory over their fellow African team, Matabeleland, before thumping Tibet 8-1, and eventually losing 0-2 to Abkhazia to finish the tournament in 10th position. Their highest goalscorer in the tournament was Sami Boudia, with four goals, who also won the Young Player of the Tournament award.

 

Kárpátalja

Karpatalya

  • Region: Europe
  • Joined CONIFA: 2016
  • Finals Appearances: 2nd
  • Previous Best Performance: WINNERS (2018)

Information

Kárpátalja are the current CONIFA World Football Cup champions, having won the tournament in 2018, and qualifying for the 2020 tournament as defending champions.

The Kárpátalja team represents the Hungarian-speaking minority, who are largely concentrated in the Zakarpattia Oblast of Ukraine (or Carpathian Ruthenia), which was originally part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, the province is controlled by Ukraine, and is situated in the south-west of the country and borders Hungary.

With approximately 156,600 people, the team represents the fifth biggest minority in Ukraine, and the seventh biggest Hungarian diaspora in the world.

Past Performances

Kárpátalja made their first appearance in a CONIFA tournament in 2017, when they replaced Occitania to take part in the 2017 CONIFA European Football Cup. Despite not progressing to the semi-finals, they finished third in their group and fifth overall, achieving a draw against Abkhazia and their first competitive win against South Ossetia, before winning a penalty shoot-out against Ellan Vannin in the 5th/6th place play-off.

They appeared in their first WFC in 2018, when again they were a replacement, this time to their fellow Hungarian speakers, Felvidék (‘Upper Hungary’ in Slovakia). Kárpátalja would surprise everyone by finishing top of their group, ahead of defending champions Abkhazia, and title favourites, Northern Cyprus. In the knockout stage, they dispatched Cascadia 3-1 in the quarter finals, before beating Székely Land 4-2 in the semi-finals. In the final, held at Enfield, they would come up against Northern Cyprus once again. Despite the game ending in a goalless stalemate, Kárpátalja held their nerve in the penalty shootout to win 3-2 on spot kicks, and claim the trophy!

 

Tamil Eelam

Tamil Eelam Logo

  • Region: Asia
  • Joined CONIFA: 2014
  • Finals Appearances: 3rd
  • Previous Best Performance: 11th (2014)

Information

Tamil Eelam are the representative team of the Tamil-speaking areas of Sri Lanka (or Eelam in Tamil), situated to the northern and eastern provinces of the large island. In addition, the team also represents the various Tamil communities situated around the world, especially in Canada, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Due to their unique language and culture, they are hoping to establish a Tamil state in the north of island of Ceylon.

The Tamileelam FA was established in 2012, and made their debut in the 2012 VIVA World Cup, held in Iraqi Kurdistan, where they finished in 7th position in the competition. They lost to both Raetia and Zanzibar in the group stage, finishing bottom of their respective group.

Past Performances

Tamil Eelam are another side who competed in the inaugural World Football Cup in 2014. Again they finished bottom of their group, conceding 11 goals and scoring none. In the placement rounds, they lost 2-4 to the hosts Sápmi, but hammered Darfur 10-0, to finish the competition in 11th spot.

They failed to qualify for the 2016 edition but qualified for the last WFC in 2018. In a very tough group consisting of the hosts Barawa, Cascadia and Ellan Vannin, Tamil Eelam finished bottom of the group once again, and not scoring a goal in the group stage. In the placement rounds, they lost 0-6 to Abkhazia, beat Tuvalu 4-3 with two injury time goals, but eventually lost to Matabeleland to finish up in 14th position in the cup.

 

Western Armenia

Western Armenia Logo

  • Region: Europe
  • Joined CONIFA: 2015
  • Finals Appearances: 3rd
  • Previous Best Performance: 6th (2016)

Information

Western Armenia is a team which represents the western part of the Armenian highlands, which is situated in the northeastern part of Turkey. In addition, the team represents the various diasporas spread out throughout the world, who all speak Western Armenian or have Western Armenian heritage. Mount Ararat, which is located in Turkey but can be seen from Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, is seen as the symbol of Western Armenia to the remainder of the people in Armenia.

The Football Federation of Western Armenia was founded in 2015, where they joined CONIFA in June of the same year. Their first ever game was against the Olympique de Marseille reserve team.

Past Performances

This will be Western Armenia’s third WFC in a row, having appeared in the previous two editions of the competition. In their debut WFC, they qualified for the quarter-finals by finishing runners-up to Abkhazia in the group and hammering Chagos Islands 12-0. There they lost 2-3 to the Panjab side, on their way to the final. In the placement rounds, they beat Kurdistan on penalties but lost to Sápmi 0-3, to finish the tournament as the 6th best team.

In the 2018 edition, the Highlanders topped their group by winning two games and drawing one to qualify for the quarter-finals once again. There they were dumped out of the competition by Székely Land 0-4, leaving them into the placement rounds. They were again thumped 0-4 in their first game, this time by Cascadia, before getting some success against Barawa. A 7-0 scoreline against the hosts meant they finished in 7th position in the tournament.

 

Group C

Kernow

Kernow Logo

  • Region: Europe
  • Joined CONIFA: 2018
  • Finals Appearances: 1st
  • Previous Best Performance: N/A

Information

Cornwall FlagKernow (the name for Cornwall in the Cornish language) is located in the far south-western point of England. Surrounded by sea on three sides, it is the only location to have one border, bordering only the county of Devon.

Kernow is regarded as one of the six Celtic Nations alongside Wales, Brittany, Ireland, Scotland and Ellan Vannin (Isle of Man), and having a Celtic culture most similar to that of their fellow Brythonic countries, Wales and Brittany. Cornwall also has its own language, Kernowek or Cornish, which was regarded as extinct in the late 18th century. However there is currently a strong push for revival of Kernowek, with multiple books, songs and films being made in the language, as well as the language now being taught to children to increase fluent speakers. In addition, it has also been recognised as a ‘minority language’ under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Past Performances

Having been admitted into CONIFA in late 2018, the Kernow team has only played two official friendlies so far. They initially played two ‘unofficial’ friendlies against local sides, Foxhole Stars XI and St Dennis AFC, of which they won both of them. However, their first international game was against Barawa (the Somali diaspora), which they won 5-0 at Bosvena (English: Bodmin) in May 2019.

Kernow was supposed to compete in the Atlantic Heritage Cup, but, sadly, had to withdraw from the competition. They have since played another friendly, in August 2019, against the Chagos Islands, who ironically replaced them in the Atlantic Heritage Cup. They once again managed to achieve another victory, this time beating the Islanders 10-3 in Bosvena. Mark Goldsworthy and Dan Jennings getting four goals a piece.

 

Mapuche

Mapuches Logo

  • Region: South America
  • Joined CONIFA: 2020
  • Finals Appearances: 1st
  • Previous Best Performance: N/A

Information

The Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina, who speak Mapundungun languages. Approximately 1,75 million of the Mapuche live in Chile (making up 9% of the total Chilean population), whilst just over 200,000 live across the border in Argentina.

Their membership to CONIFA was confirmed in the AGM in January 2020.

Past Performances

Just like their Cornish opponents, this is also their first World Football Cup tournament. They have qualified automatically as they are one of just two members in CONIFA from South America, and so earned the South American qualifying spot. However the Mapuche team does have some football pedigree. In 2015, the Mapuche team won the Copa ANPO, a football tournament for the indigenous peoples of South America.

 

Australian First Nations

Mariya Logo

  • Region: Oceania
  • Joined CONIFA: 2018
  • Finals Appearances: 1st
  • Previous Best Performance: N/A

Information

Australian Aboriginal FlagMariya or Australian First Nations Mariya, to give the FA’s full name, represent the various groups of indigenous peoples of Australia. The football side represents nearly 800,000 people in Australia, roughly 3.3% of Australia’s population.

Mariya joined CONIFA as a full member in November 2018, and played their first game in 2019 against Aotearoa (the team of the Maori people of New Zealand) in the ‘Clash of Cultures’ series.

Past Performances

As with their fellow group opponents, Kernow and Mapuche, this will be the Australian First Nations’ first appearance in the World Football Cup. In the ‘Clash of Cultures’ series against Aotearoa, the male side lost to their Maori equivalents by a scoreline of 2-3.

 

Matabeleland

Matabeleland Logo

  • Region: Africa
  • Joined CONIFA: 2016
  • Finals Appearances: 2nd
  • Previous Best Performance: 13th (2018)

Information

Matabeleland FlagMatabeleland is located in the three westernmost provinces of Zimbabwe, between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. The region is named after its inhabitants, the Ndebele people (‘Matabele’ being a European corruption of ‘Ndebele’), and has about 2,1 million inhabitants, with its capital being Bulawayo. Originally an independent kingdom, it got absorbed into British Rhodesia, and then became a part of Zimbabwe when it gained independence in 1980.

The team is run by the Matabeleland Football Confederacy, and has the nickname of Ingqungqulu.

Past Performances

They played in the previous World Football Cup, their first tournament as a CONIFA member. Under the management of Justin Walley, and boosted by the former Liverpool and Zimbabwe legend, Bruce Grobbelaar, Matabeleland managed to win their final group game, 3-1 against Tuvalu. Sadly they lost their first two group games to finish 3rd in their group. In the placement rounds, they lost to Kabylia on penalties, achieved a declared 3-0 victory over the withdrawn Ellan Vannin team, and managed to beat Tamil Eelam 1-0, to finish 13th in the tournament.

 

 

Group D

Cascadia

Cascadia Logo

  • Region: North America
  • Joined CONIFA: 2018
  • Finals Appearances: 2nd
  • Previous Best Performance: 6th (2018)

Information

Cascadia FlagThe Cascadia football team represents the Cascadia bio-region, situated in the north-west of the United States and the south-west of Canada, also known as the ‘Pacific Northwest’. The team consists of players from either the US states of Oregon and Washington, and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Because they are located in the region, the MLS teams, Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers all compete for the Cascadia Cup, which is given to the club that finishes with the best record in the MLS season between the 3 teams.

The Cascadia team is controlled by the Cascadia Association Football Federation (CAFF) and was founded in 2013. Originally they joined the NF-Board, but when that folded, they subsequently joined CONIFA. This World Football Cup will be the team’s second, as their first tournament was in 2018.

Past Performances

In their debut WFC appearance, they achieved great success by piping one of the pre-tournament favourites, Ellan Vannin, to second place in the group and qualifying for the quarter-finals. They would subsequently lose to Kárpátalja 1-3 in the final eight, and then go into the placement rounds, where they beat Western Armenia 4-0, but lost to Panjab on penalties despite producing an incredible comeback from 0-3 down to draw the game 3-3. They ultimately finished sixth in the tournament, with their forward, Calum Ferguson, finishing as the tournament’s second-highest goalscorer with five goals.

 

Darfur

Darfur United Logo

  • Region: Africa
  • Joined CONIFA: 2014
  • Finals Appearances: 2nd
  • Previous Best Performance: 12th (2014)

Information

The Darfur team, also known as Darfur United, are a team who represent the western region of Sudan. Originally an independent sultanate for several centuries, it was incorporated into Sudan by Anglo-Egyptian forces in 1916. There has been a war of independence conducted against the Sudanese government for decades, whilst the region has suffered from a humanitarian crisis, which has seen it in the news most recently.

Darfur United were formed in 2012, made up of players who came from the Darfuri refugee camps located in neighbouring Chad. There they competed in the 2012 VIVA World Cup, where they lost to Northern Cyprus, Provence and Western Sahara to finish ninth in the tournament. However it allowed Darfur to finally be represented in a global competition. The team then transferred over to CONIFA in 2014.

Past Performances

Darfur are another country who competed in the very first CONIFA World Football Cup in 2014. In their difficult group, they had Padania and South Ossetia (who is in their group once again this year). Sadly it was a difficult time for the side, as they conceded 39 goals in the two games without scoring at the other end! The placement rounds would provide no relief as they would go on to lose 0-12 to Nagorno-Karabakh and 0-10 to Tamil Eelam. The team would finish the contest in 12th position, having conceded 61 goals, and not scoring one. However the side attracted many plaudits and supporters, and won the tournament’s fair play award.

 

South Ossetia

South Ossetia Logo

  • Region: Europe
  • Joined CONIFA: 2014
  • Finals Appearances: 2nd
  • Previous Best Performance: 4th (2014)

Information

South Ossetia FlagThe Republic of South Ossetia is a de facto sovereign territory, north of Georgia and south of Russia in the Caucasus. The region declared its independence from Georgia in 1991, however the Georgian government has not recognised its sovereignty and claims it’s still part of Georgia. The Russo-Georgian War in 2008 ensured that the Russian military occupied the territory. However to this date, only Russia and a few other states recognise the South Ossetians independence from Georgia.

The team is controlled by the Football Federation of South Ossetia, which was created in 1997. They played their first match against fellow breakaway republic, Abkhazia in 2013, before joining CONIFA the following year. They then made their debut appearance in the World Football Cup that year.

The South Ossetians qualify for the WFC as the 2019 CONIFA European Football Cup winners, after they defeated Western Armenia 1-0 in the final, held in Artsakh.

Past Performances

As mentioned previously, they are the current CONIFA Euro Football Cup winners. They also appeared in the very first CONIFA WFC, when it was held in Sápmi. In that tournament, they finished in second position in the group, having beaten Darfur 19-0, but lost to Padania 1-3. In the quarter-finals, they managed to beat local rivals, Abkhazia on penalties after a goalless draw, before losing to eventual champions, the County of Nice, by a 0-3 scoreline. In the 3rd place playoff, they would suffer another big defeat, this time losing 1-4 to Arameans Suryoye to finish in fourth position.

 

United Koreans in Japan

UKJ Logo

  • Region: Asia
  • Joined CONIFA: 2015
  • Finals Appearances: 3rd
  • Previous Best Performance: 7th (2016)

Information

The United Koreans in Japan (UKJ) team represents the Korean population who permanently reside in Japan, with approximately 855,000 people who are considered as “Zainichi Koreans”. The team is made up of players who hold passports from either North or South Korea (depending on their heritage), and Japan.

FC Korea LogoThe team originates from Tokyo-based side FC Korea, a football team in the Kanto Soccer League (tiers 5-6 in the Japanese pyramid) which also represents the community, and acts as the foundation for the CONIFA team. The CONIFA team, is managed by the United Korean Football Association in Japan (UKFAJ), and they joined CONIFA in 2015, making their debut in the 2016 World Football Cup, and returning in 2018.

Past Performances

In the 2016 WFC tournament, the UKJ managed to finish in second position in the group and qualify for the quarter-finals by beating Székely Land 1-0. In the knockout stage, they came up against one of the favourites in Northern Cyprus. Despite drawing 1-1 with them after 120 minutes, they were knocked out on penalties 2-4 to the Cypriots, who eventually finished third. In the placement rounds, the UKJ team lost to Sápmi 1-2 despite taking the lead, but gained revenge from their defeat in the group stages by beating Kurdistan on penalties to claim seventh place in the tournament.

They returned in the 2018 WFC tournament, where the UKJ team stayed undefeated during their group stage. Unfortunately they never won any either, drawing all three of their group games, and only scoring 1 goal, which was in the four minute of injury time of their final group game! Unsurprisingly they finished third in their group, and went straight into the placement rounds. During these games, they hammered Tuvalu 5-0, lost to Abkhazia 0-2, and drew to Tibet in their final placement game. However they beat the mountain nation 4-1 in the penalty shootout to finish in eleventh position for the tournament.

 

Conclusion

So that concludes my initial delve into the 2020 CONIFA World Football Cup. It will be very interesting to see who will lift the trophy on the 7th of June. Will the defending champions, Kárpátalja, become the first member to win two WFC titles, and in consecutive tournaments? Will South Ossetia add to their European crown and win the World equivalent to create an impressive double? Can Panjab or Western Armenia overcome past final defeats to go one better last time? Or will one of the debutantes repeat the feat of Kárpátalja of two years ago, and win the trophy in their first ever CONIFA appearance? Can Jersey, Kernow, Mariya or Mapuche become world champions at the first time of asking??

I would be interested to know who you think will win the tournament, and your reasons (if you have any) for choosing that side. Likewise, is there a particular CONIFA member you’ll be supporting throughout the tournament? I would be keen to find out which members are popular out there!

For further reading on CONIFA, and other things concerning the world of CONIFA, the following links should be followed:

 

Diolch!

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