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article imageThis World Cup was for national teams without a country

By Martin Laine     Jun 9, 2014 in Sports
Even as nationalistic fervor builds for the teams competing in the FIFA World Cup which begins this week, another, more obscure World Cup ended Sunday.
Whereas the FIFA World Cup is one of the most-watched sports events in the world, the alternative ConIFA World Cup tournament is as obscure as the 12 teams that took part and the regions they represent. They can’t be called countries, since their homelands aren’t recognized as such.
Groups such as Kurds, Aramean-Syriacs, and Tamils were represented.
Held in the northern Swedish town of Ostersund the games were played at an athletic field with just a handful of spectators, according to an article in The Local. The indigenous people there are the Sami, formerly known as Lapps or Laplanders, who have an autonomous status and can freely move between Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia.
For the record, the team from the County of Nice defeated a team from the Isle of Man 5-3 in a shootout to take the gold in Sunday's final, according to the BBC. This was the first year of the ConIFA (Confederation of Independent Football Associations) tournament.
Just as important as the competition, perhaps even moreso for the competitors, it was an opportunity to bring recognition to their homelands.
The Darfur United team was made up entirely of players from the refugee camps in Chad. They were outclassed by most of the other teams, but that didn’t bother goalkeeper Ismail Gamardin, even after a 19-0 loss to the breakaway Republic of South Ossetia.
“Football helps us … we get to tell people about the situation in our camps. Otherwise nobody hears about us,” he said. Though they finished at the bottom of the tournament, they didn’t walk away empty-handed. They were awarded a cup for “Fair Play and Ethics.”
“We have our own identity,” said Lee Dixon, coach for the Isle of Man team. The Isle of Man is an autonomous island between Ireland and Britain. “But a lot of these teams are fighting for their own identity.”
To be sure, there was plenty of good sportsmanship to go around. The Darfur team was able to attend the tournament because of the fundraising efforts of the Isle of Man team, which took the silver medal.
More about ConIFA, World Cup, Darfur United
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