Karpatalya v Northern Cyprus, CONIFA Final at Enfield Town FC

Hi everyone,

So I’ve had a couple of people get in touch about my forthcoming book, CONIFA: Football For The Forgotten. A few things have changed over the last few months, perhaps inevitably, so I just want to fill in anyone who might be interested on the detail, especially those of you who have kindly pre-ordered the book (which you can still do here, if you’d like, though as circumstances change – see below – I might have to stop taking those orders – I will make it clear on the page if I do so).

Thank you to all those that have helped out in any way so far, from the dozens I’ve interviewed to those who’ve financially supported this – you’ve really made it a whole, whole lot easier.

First of all, I recognize some of you might not want a big long-winded update, so here it is all summed up in a couple of paragraphs…

In short: My plan was always to self-publish this book. However, I’ve been approached by a very reputable literary agent about working with me to get hold of a publisher. Her previous work includes Rio Ferdinand’s autobiography and a couple of books by Lee Price which explore similar areas of football to CONIFA. The submission process to publishers will inevitably slow down production, so while I’m all but done with my end, I’m going to hold off on publication for now.

The agent and I have agreed that if there are no takers on the book by late November, I will go ahead with self-publishing, ideally in time for Christmas. I appreciate that I had planned to publish in late September, and some of you might have considered that a factor when you bought a copy. This is too good an opportunity to pass up for me, so while I’m sorry for the delay, I have decided to go with it regardless. With that in mind, if you pre-ordered, and would prefer a refund to waiting for a later publication date, I completely respect that. Just get in touch, and it will have your money back with you within a couple of working days. You should also have received an update email from me.

In a little more detail: To be honest, I always anticipated this being an indie book. CONIFA might be growing, and articles are now appearing around tournaments in mainstream publications, but I wasn’t convinced the market was there to go to publishers, and I’m still not, entirely. People have been incredibly open with me, though, both from within CONIFA, and in terms of producing stories around the teams for the book. I think what I have is a genuinely fascinating insight into the organization. It might be a little sports-nerdy and quite political at times, but it also has some unbelievable stories behind it all.

The latest draft is about 65,000 words in length, and has some details that have really surprised me: I’ve learned a huge, huge amount as I’ve gone along. I’m not going to spill it all here, for obvious reasons, but I thought there’s no harm in telling you a bit about what I’m covering.

As will surprise nobody who was out at the 2018 tournament in London, the book has ended up being quite political, but I like it that way. I think it has a weight that would be lacking if I stuck to just the football, and gives a far more complete picture of what’s going on behind the scenes at CONIFA. Here’s what you can expect when the book does arrive (subject, to some extent, to input from any future publisher, of course):

  • Reports on every game at the CONIFA World Football Cup 2018 in London, and comment on the post match and any fallout. This Includes some side angles, like why Ellan Vannin quit midway through the tournament. Others include the story behind Hungarian passion for Karpatalya and Szekely Land, why I spent a pre-match build-up having the shoelaces burnt from my trainers, and why Kabylia and Matabeleland can’t help but dance.
  • Background stories from more than half of the team camps, and their territories, told, in large part, by the people who were there. These take in Cascadia’s late rush for players, Matabeleland’s financial struggles, Kabylia’s problems with the Algerian authorities, how the inclusion of Tibet nearly threw the tournament off the rails, formal protests against Northern Cyprus and Tamil Eelam, and how Pakistanis and Indians united under the Panjabi flag.
  • A detailed history of CONIFA and how it formed. This takes in Per-Anders Blind and Sascha Duerkop first coming together to unite the fragments of fractured predecessor organization NF-Board, to the last-minute struggles to bring together the debut tournament in Ostersund in the north of Sweden. It also touches on the financial struggles CONIFA face as an ongoing entity, what drives organizers, and why they’re struggling to get gate receipts from London back into the organization bank account.
  • Money, and politics: a response to leftfield allegations that CONIFA is linked to Russian separatism from the board. How CONIFA deals with the politics of its teams. Why teams like Kiribati and Tuvalu – countries, by any measure – don’t get a look in with FIFA. In a tournament purposefully representing the little guys, how do you ensure the very littlest of little guys get to play?
  • Asides into identity and football: why some players don’t feel they have a national team, and what we can do about it. Why football is becoming inaccessible to some even in places like London, and a look at a small group that’s trying to change that. Why England wouldn’t qualify for FIFA if they applied today, and why Gibraltar and the Isle of Man are the nearly the same, but from a footballing perspective, very different.

Inevitably, I will be picking at the text of the book right up until it heads to the printers (because I can’t help myself), be that through a publisher, or off my own back. particularly if it ends up being self-published (but also if it doesn’t), those of you who bought early, thank you, without your part in funding this a print run would be a Herculean task, and because of you, it is now doable.

For now, as a tiny taster, the copy on my nightstand looks like this:


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So, a few people have been asking about my #CONIFA book. Here it is in it’s first ever full hard form (the draft, printed bit of the image obviously!). Barring a few late edits and possibly one more interview, it is all done bar the late edits. It’s now with my literary agent, who has been pitching it to various publishers. This is a nice turn of events for me – I didn’t seek out an agent, she came to me. I’d always planned to self-publish, but there are substantial benefits to conventional publishing, so I’m waiting out any possible contract for a while. If it doesn’t come, I’ll be going right back to plan A. I’m about to write a blog on it with a full update, that I’ll post here later. It turned out this project has depth I could never have imagined, and I’m really quite proud of this whatever happens. Its been quite a summer writing it all!

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Thank you so much for all your support. I’ll keep you updated with progress,

– James


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