May 27, 2016
Photo Courtesy of RFE
On 28 May, the Conifa 2016 World Football Cup will begin in Sukhum, Abkhazia. The event, organized by the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (Conifa), will see unrecognised or stateless nations and peoples from around the world compete against each other. Several UNPO members are set to take part in this alternative football competition, including Abhkazia and Somaliland, and it is hoped the games will raise their profile internationally.
Below is an article published by Radio Free Europe:
It was a major public holiday, but the de facto prime minister of breakaway Abkhazia was huddled in meetings out at the city's new stadium, making last-minute preparations for a soccer tournament that kicks off on May 28.
On the day that the UEFA Champions League final draws hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide, thousands of Abkhaz will flock here for the opening ceremony of a more obscure soccer event: a tournament bringing together teams including Somaliland, Sapmi, Raetia, and the Chagos Islands.
If you don't recognize them, you're not alone: None of the teams represents a country at the UN.
The tournament is being held under the auspices of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (Conifa), whose members include unrecognized states, disputed territories, stateless peoples, and cultural regions.
But it's been the talk of the town for months in Sukhum -- even if it's not the first global competition to be held in Abkhazia, as Prime Minister Artur Mikvabia pointed out with sheepish pride.
"This is the second," he chuckled. "We hosted the championship for dominoes."
The World Domino Championship came and went in October 2011, with great fanfare in Abkhazia but little resonance beyond.
From leaders to ordinary people, Abkhaz are hoping the Conifa 2016 World Football Cup will do more to put their region on the map. It might be a map with unfamiliar names like Western Armenia, Northern Cyprus, Szekely Land, and Panjab, but many see the tournament as a way to gain respect from the outside world.
The 12 teams competing for the cup also include Kurdistan, the United Koreans in Japan, and host Abkhazia.