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CONIFA : a Euro for the forgotten teams

The CONIFA Euro Cup will be live streamed on MyCujoo from 1 to 9 june. The competition will see eight teams - de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples- battling for the European trophy. MyCujoo introduces you to this very special tournament.

Padania won the last two CONIFA Euro Cup

Fabrice Deschamps
From Amsterdam

After last year CONIFA World Cup, it is time now for the Euro (1 - 9 June). Eight teams will battle for the European title in Artsakh (South Caucasus), for the third edition - after Hungary and Northern Cyprus). CONIFA, the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, is the football federation for all associations outside FIFA. A non-profit organization founded in 2013, CONIFA supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories.

Watch the CONIFA Euro Cup on MyCujoo

"We saw some great crowds in London and we’re expecting that this year’s tournament will be well supported by the public of Artsakh and fans from further afield", declared Alberto Rischio, European President of CONIFA. Seeing the amazing crowds and atmosphere last year in England for the World Cup, there are reasons to be hopeful indeed !

This year, beside the hosts of Artsakh, there will be Sapmi, Abkhazia, Chameria in Group A, and Padania, Szekely Land, Western Armenia, South Ossetia will fill up Group B. Four teams had to withdraw (County of Nice, Sardinia, Luhansk and Donetsk) a few weeks before the tournament, which says a lot, if needed, about the complexity of organizing a competition for regions or territories with such historical and political backgrounds.

Football lovers

One might not be very familiar with the eight teams participating, starting with the hosts : Artsakh, sometimes better known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is a de-facto independent state in the Caucasus region. This region, which was in a conflict for about 15 years (late 80s until 1994), located between Armenia and Azerbaijan, is governed by its own government, and run its own football league since 2009.

"Artsakh football team is Member of CONIFA since 2013 and from the very beginning it sought to become organiser of the games. The games will be held in four stadiums of Artsakh – in Stepanakert, Askeran, Martakert and Martuni. It is very important for us. We do not want to hold the event in the capital only, as we want to give the opportunity to football lovers of different regions of Artsakh to enjoy the games", explained Science and Sport’s minister Narine Aghabalyan.

CONIFA Euro Cup 2019 match schedule

In this area too, Abkhazia is an independent state at the Eastern coast of the Black Sea. They declared their sovereignty in 1990, were in a war (1992-1993) with neighbours, and are now only recognized by Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. A situation pretty similar for the Republic of South Ossetia, located in Southern Caucasus, who declared sovereignty in 1992 and was in a conflict in 2008.

Still in East Europe, discover the Székely Land, a historic area in Romania inhabited by the Székelys, a subgroup of the Hungarian people from eastern Transylvania. Or Western Armenia, in the Armenians Highlands, which is today lying in the territory of Turkey.

On the other side of Europe, at the very north, Lapland. This huge region (100 000 km2), is divided between Norway, Russia, Sweden and Finland and the Samia are recognized as a minority group in the three Scandinavian countries. They hosted the CONIFA World Cup in 2014.

And now if we go back down to the South, welcome to Padania ! This large area of Northern Italy in the Po Valley comprises of Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Liguria, Trentino, Vallée d’Aoste. The Padania FA exists since 2013 and the team finished 4th at the CONIFA World Cup 2016. One player might sound familiar : Enoch Balotelli, brother of...

Who's favourite?

If there is a good chance you have heard of the above mentioned territories or regions, this is less probable regarding the next one : Chameria. This is used to characterize parts of the coastal region of Epirus in southern Albania and the historical Greek region of Epirus, traditionally associated with an Albanian speaking population called Chams. They joined CONIFA recently, in the 2018 Spring.

But out of these teams, who can be considered among the favourites ? Last year World Cup should be a good measure : both Padania and Szekely Land reached the semis last year. Padania is also holder of the Euro, which they have won twice. However, Western Armenia have regularly performed well in international tournaments, and should not be neglected as strong underdog.

Abkhazia (blue kit) and Székely Land will both participate to the CONIFA Euro Cup 2019

"We can’t wait to get started with this year’s tournament. The World Football Cup in 2018 was a hugely positive event for CONIFA and our member countries, and we are looking forward to welcoming the teams to Artsakh and to working with our hosts to run another successful week of football", said Per-Anders Blind, CONIFA President.

To summarize the spirit of such a competition, what’s best than quotes from insiders at last year World Cup? "You put a football down anywhere and you will see people running to it to play. That’s the power of football", said Haji Munye, co-founder of Barawa FA. "It means so much to us to be able to play in our shirt, our flag, for our country. This is something we cannot otherwise do. It is an expression of ourselves", added Passang Dorjee, the Tibetan team's coach.

Watch the CONIFA Euro Cup on MyCujoo