In mid-June, the world turned to Brazil. One week prior, a very different tournament took place in Ostersund, Sweden. Away from the massive television contracts, we saw unrecognized FAs – those that are unable to even attempt to qualify for the FIFA World Cup – take to the pitch as ConIFA hosts its first World Football Cup. Whereas in Brazil the 32 participants from UN-recognized countries came together and removed the spotlight from world politics, the twelve teams at ConIFA played with their individual strife at the front, the hope of eventual self-determination and reunification of various diaspora always on their minds as we question what ethnicity means in an evermore-globalizing world. Darfur United, an all-refugee team made up of the best players from twelve camps that dot the Chad-Sudan border, was created in 2012. The team was taken to compete in the Viva World Cup in Iraqi Kurdistan. More recently, they participated in the ConIFA World Football Cup.
Teams like Ellan Vannin and Sápmi were formed as a means of protecting unique cultural heritages that are shrinking and blending with surrounding cultures, whereas Darfur United find themselves and their people without a country. Teams like Abkhazia, Nagoro-Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Tamil Eelam make their homes in disputed territories typically unable to gain proper international recognition for self-determination, in many ways remaining trapped under the law of countries they do not call their own. Others like Padania, Occitania, and Nice County feel they are under-represented in their respective countries and seek autonomy – and sometimes more.
What ConIFA accomplished during this one-week tournament is worthy of multiple Hollywood scripts. Fast forward to the tournament’s trophy ceremony that everyone proudly lifted above their heads as one deserving team. The event hall saw lifelong friendships being formed between people from opposite sides of the world as they were brought together by football and desire to be recognised. In the end, to the joy of Darfur United’s players the entire banquet hall began chanting in unison, in dedication to the stateless. “Darfur-United!”
Read the full feature of Darfur United in TIFO2 titled Darfur Re-United.