Chameria Concludes Its First International Football Season
On 21 November 2018, the national football team of Chameria travelled to the southern Albanian city of Tepelenë to play its final match of the 2018 season against the city’s professional team, KF Tepelenë, which plays in the Albanian Second Division.
This sporting event was attended by the city’s dignitaries, including the mayor. The match was broadcast live on Albanian television and provided the Cham people with an ideal opportunity to come together to celebrate the cultural identity of the community and create greater awareness among the (inter)national community of the continued existence of Chameria.
Various speeches preceded the football match in which the speakers emphasised the importance of well-attended and high-profile sporting events like this to keep the Cham identity alive and to promote a competitive and friendly atmosphere that enables the community to come together.
In the run up to the match, the national anthem of Chameria was played, which inspired the football players to play to the best of their ability and make the football event a success. The 90 minutes’ game showed two teams who were equally matched in skills and determination. When the match came to a close, the scoreboard showed a two-to-one victory for the team of KF Tepelenë, whereas the success of the event was a victory for both teams and the people of Chameria.
The match on 21 November was the final game for the team of Chameria in the 2018 season. In the previous months the Chamerian team travelled through the region and played a half a dozen other matches against professional teams in Kosovo and Albania. Some of these matches were won by the national team of Chameria, while others saw the home team take the top spot. Well known teams playing in the top divisions of Albania and Kosovo, like KF Gjilani and KF Lapi, played host to the national team of Chameria and provided the latter the opportunity to show the Cham, as well as the international community, that the Cham identity is vibrant and alive.
Football Federation of Chameria
In 2017, on Saturday 17 June, players representing Chameria had their very first match against another national team, when they participated in the International Football Cup for Unrepresented Nations organised by the UNPO in The Hague, the Netherlands. During this tournament the Chamerian team played three matches, including the final, eventually winning the UNPO cup with a three-to-two victory against FC Umubano from Burundi.
The participation of a Chamerian sports team in an international tournament led to new hopes and high expectations for Chameria to take its place in the international sports arena. Almost a year later, on 18 May 2018, the Football Federation of Chameria was officially established by Festim Lato, as the president, and Jeroen Zandberg as the secretary. The newly established federation aims to create a sustainable environment for Chamerian players to develop their skills and represent Chameria at international football tournaments and individual matches. Several professional trainers were contracted and a team was quickly set up. Already on 12 and 13 July 2018, the team of Chameria was able to play two matches against professional football teams, Sporting Tirana and Oricum, who play in the highest Albanian league.
Membership of CONIFA
Shortly after its establishment, the Football Federation of Chameria applied for membership of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) and was admitted as a new member on 24 May 2018.
CONIFA is the biggest international football federation outside FIFA. It has a membership of over 40 unrepresented nations, like Abkhazia, Monaco, Greenland, Somaliland, Zanzibar and many others, who compete in a European and World tournament schedule. The upcoming European Championships are scheduled for June 2019 and will see the best twelve nations from Europe compete for the cup. The Chamerian team has qualified for these finals and will participate in the tournament, which is hosted by the independent, yet still unrecognised, country of Artsakh.
The officials of the Football Federation of Chameria are convinced that the current talented players who make up the Chamerian national team will enable Chameria to advance to the final stages of the European Championships with a realistic chance of reaching the finals and possibly taking home the CONIFA European Championship Cup.