The CONIFA World Football Cup took place in London in the summer of 2018. Dubbed the world cup for ‘unrecognised nations’, it saw soccer teams from difficult roots compete for a parallel world cup in a 16 team tournament over nine days. The competitors varied from established countries (Tuvalu) to disputed regions (Northern Cyprus, Tibet and Abkhazia), minority groups (Punjab, Kabylia and Matabeleland), and regions with distinctive individual identities (Cascadia, Ellan Vannin).
‘CONIFA: Football for the Forgotten’ explores the organisation and the hardships of these teams through the lens of the tournament. The organisation’s roots lie with a Sapmi minority President from Northern Sweden – a businessman and reindeer herder called Per-Anders Blind – and an obscure shirt collector from central Germany, Sascha Duerkop.
The 2018 tournament was their fifth, and biggest tournament to date. CONIFA’s sides came through intense difficulties in preparing for the London tournament. Kabylia could bring only expat players, and saw their coach arrested and questioned by Algerian authorities. Matabeleland trained with a single functioning ball and no nets in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, before an English trainer from Latvia and Bruce Grobbelaar combined to get them to London.
Cascadia, representing a region on the west coast of the US and Canada, formed on internet forums, and hauled a team together just in time for the tournament, meeting for the first time the day before kick off. Northern Cyprus – the largest region of Europe that’s totally ineligible for UEFA club competition – brought a team of their best league players, treating the tournament as their own world cup.
The tournament itself also came under threat: almost all the sponsors threatened to withdraw at late notice, after CONIFA refused to throw out Tibet. They suspect Chinese influence. The Sri Lankan and Cypriot governments objected in writing in advance of the games, and when it was all over, the Ukraine banned an entire team’s players from competing in their country again.
‘CONIFA: Football for the Forgotten’ is the story of all the battles to play, all the action from the tournament itself, and more.
The book is based on around 50 interviews with those involved in the tournament, and running the teams, as well as attendance at over 1500 hours of live football. It reveals previously unpublished information about the inner workings of CONIFA (including its finances and response to allegations the organisation works on behalf of Russia).
It’s a book about football, but also a book about diverse political architecture in different parts of the world, and the struggles that their desire to simply play the game for a shirt they love have created.
Author James Hendicott is a freelance sports and music journalist based in Dublin, Ireland, who has previously worked with the likes of NME, Lonely Planet, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Business Post, the Irish Sun, the Korea Herald and MSN. He supports Aston Villa and St Patrick’s Athletic.
Further details, including order information for the book, can be found here.
For press images: click here (all copyright James Hendicott, cover design work by David Dooley).
James is available for general press/ interviews/ promo around his book. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (Ireland +353) 0879106212. Limited review copies are available.
Cover design by David Dooley, editing by Stephen Byrne.
Released: April 2019.
Retail in Ireland: €10 including postage.
International retail: €12 plus postage.