The CONIFA World Football Cup, not to be confused with that other competition with a similar name soon to begin in Russia, kicked off in north London on Thursday and will run until 9 June, furnishing the capital’s long history as a place of wondrous cosmopolitanism where a welcome awaits outsiders, and providing some decent sporting action in the process.
CONIFA stands for Confederation of Independent Football Associations and represents teams from territories not recognised by FIFA or, in its own words, those of “de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories”. These range from the Isle of Man (Ellan Vannin), to Abkhazia (disputed territory in the north-west of Georgia) to Cascadia (a region straddling the US Canadian border with an independence movement), to Tibet, the geographic entity whose long-running dispute with China is well-known.
Photographer, film maker and On London contributor Max Curwen-Bingley has been following the competition, paying particular attention to Ellan Vannin and Tibet. His build-up coverage even took him India, where the Tibet squad had its training camp. Amazingly, while there he even met Tibet’s exiled spiritual and political leader, the legendary Dalai Lama.
The Tibet team featured in the competition’s opening match at the ground of Enfield Town, a tough contest against Abkhazia, who are the current Word Football Cup holders. They lost 3-0, but were far from disgraced and Max, who took his camera along of course, reports that the pleasure they and their supporters took from the opportunity to celebrate their sense of denied nationhood brought a tear to his eye. The photo below shows the supporter flags of Abkhazia (left) and of Tibet (right).
Here’s a shot of the Tibet bench in the Enfield Town dug out.
And here’s one of the Tibet’s fans.
The photo at the top of this piece, showing Tibet players singing belting out their national anthem in the wilds of north London, is another of Max’s. The 16 teams in the tournament will play matches at the grounds of Sutton United and Bromley as well as Enfield. There’s a full fixture list here.
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