Pay Attention to CONIFA
As football is the best sport to watch in the world its natural that we as football fans want to consume different types of football along with the different cultures that come along with different types of football.
Like how the progress of non-league teams in the FA Cup gives them that audience to attract new eyes to their level. The non-league pyramid in England specifically is the best and shining example amongst football across in Europe.
The rising number of feature documentaries and docuseries on football outside of the league system has turned it almost into the hipster’s choice of football. As a result, the culture of non-league is now popular to be a part of whether you support or play there.
There is another culture of football that, in my opinion, should rise in popularity due to the core values and objectives they’ve outlined where a lot of supporters can warm towards and take some regular interest in.
Now FIFA is the overarching governing body that oversees the football we know today. Now the some of us in the football community have a very estranged relationship with FIFA due to allegations of dealings that haven’t exactly been above board.
It’s not unfair to say there is an appetite for power and money amongst some of the officials working for and around FIFA and other bodies or football associations like it. Which is reflected by the commercial culture of the game now.
Whilst they look to improve and evolve the beautiful game. It has come at a cost at times… literally in most cases but ultimately most working-class cultures that surround a majority of clubs feel that football is being lost slowly to the rich.
The Confederation of Independent Football Associations or CONIFAis the international governing body for football teams that aren’t affiliated with FIFA. The type of members they govern are commonly defined as states, minorities or regions.
Set up in 2013, the organisation looks to build bridges between people of different backgrounds and cultures with the aim of building friendships as well as a positive culture through playing high quality football.
Members of this body are usually autonomous regions of a country or region of a country who have residents that have tried to have them recognised as their own state so to speak.
Other members include stateless people or ethnicities that have a community within a ‘’recognised’’ country/state.
Tibet, Cornwall, Monaco, Yorkshire, Northern Cyprus, Kurdistan, Sicily, Zanzibar, Somaliland, Western Sahara are some of the names of members you would probably recognise for historical or political reasons but these are also some of the members involved in CONIFA.
One of the crown jewels in this governing body’s set up is their version of an international football tournament known as the CONIFA World Football Cup. The first edition held in 2014 in Sampi (a cultural region that spans over four countries) and won by the County of Nice.
The unrecognised nations that fall under CONIFA’s umbrella are catered to through the beautiful game. Such a network of members gives an opportunity to socialise with other isolated, misunderstood and small communities of people.
CONIFA’s approach is wholesome. With an equal approach to men’s and women’s football as well as disabled football teams.
Borders are broken through this non-profit organisation and whilst the football we know is constantly being evolved and changed for the improvement of the game. CONIFA looks to use football instead to create a better society free from any sort of discrimination.
Most CONIFA members feel disenfranchised by the members of FIFA. CONIFA managed to represent 334 million players, referees and coaches across five continents in four years since its conceptions.
Football is simply a beautiful mechanism for CONIFA. They don’t have the financial muscle to put on the type of production that draws the eye of the mainstream instead big events gain attendances you would see at non-league or lower league level.
Everyone involved works voluntarily full-time and the organisation is self-financed through sponsors, public support, donations, membership fees and the income accumulated through their own tournaments.
Which to be fair is enough. You want to teach people, raise awareness or spread a message you only need one person who will then influence their own community and so on and so on. So, you would say finance isn’t a necessity when it comes to achieving its core aims.
Ideally you would like some sort of finances in order to spread the necessary messages as far as possible and with consistency. Especially as we remain in a transitional period coming out of the global pandemic, some money would’ve left CONIFA in a better position.
Logistics have also been a problem. The meetings have adapted to online meetings like the rest of the world but even before the pandemic some teams were finding it hard to find the team or necessary travel arrangements to compete in some of the tournaments.
The players representing the member states would commonly be found applying their trade in the lower leagues non-league of some the recognised states so it would be watching international non-league football.
Does the profile of CONIFA need to be raised? Well if you look at how the football we know has taken on support for fighting discrimination in the form of many different campaigns and initiatives you would say yes to an extent.
The logical thing would be that the recognised football associations should look to them to adopt some of the ethical standards in order to improve relations between cultures and communities not just within recognised states but between different ones also.
However, unfortunately there are other priorities for the powers at be amongst the relevant football powers. I do also think that CONIFA are comfortable in their own format and would prefer to develop their own develop their own affiliated members.
Their own version World Cup along with other international football tournaments suggests that there are more of these communities being excluded in general not just football than we are aware of.
Even something as simple as seeing their own unique representative flag creates an intrigue where you want to know more about that community and what the colours and symbol in their flags mean.
No doubt it’s probably a more interesting way to consume football because there are some talented players that can be found playing in these tournaments.
When you consider some communities or ethnicities are underrepresented at the elite level not just in terms of playing but refereeing, coaching or management particularly the Asian and Oceania regions of the world CONIFA is bridging that gap and providing the platform.
More eyes on means the profile is raised and by extension more money which is needed. There will also be a desire for some regions who may have built a landscape of political independence to a point where they feel they meet the requirements set out by FIFA.
Understandable given almost all the eyes of the World are on the football played under FIFA and CONIFA have already mentioned how they would be more than happy to assist with any application process their members may wish to complete.
We all know that football can give us incredible moments of uncontrollable emotion through the very nature of the sport at times. There are some stories that some of these members have that are full of emotion and will give you some understanding for the misunderstood.