Padania win Viva World Cup
A football tournament staged by the Italian separatist party, Lega Nord, was played out with the tacit permission of the Italian sporting authorities according to the organizers.
FIFA insists on separating politics and sport but the week-long third edition of the Viva World Cup was staged and won by Padania, a team representing northern Italy, with no interference from the world body or the Italian authorities.
Jean Luc Kit, secretary general at the organisers, the NF Board, which represents around 30 teams unable to join FIFA, said: “There was no problem in general with politics. It was a big step to the future.”
The hosts, Padania, won the tournament beating Kurdistan 2-0 with two second half goals in front of 4,000 fans at the Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi in Verona.
Padania spokesman and organizer Claudio Gallo said: “[There were] no interferences from the FIGC (Italian Football Federation). I have a personal friendship with President Gianni Petrucci and General Secretary Raffaele Pagnozzi of CONI (Italian Olympic Committee), and they do not have interest in doing interferences with this tournament.”
The tournament ran in the last week of June and six teams entered with the final screened on satellite TV channel Rai Sport – part of the media empire of Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi - and there was coverage on a number of other TV stations, including Rai Sport, Canale 5 and Rai 3.
Umberto Bossi, the Lega Nord leader, even turned down a regular Monday night dinner with Berlusconi to watch Padania’s opening game a 1-0 win over Occitania, a team comprised of people able to speak the ancient language of southern France.
“I’m going to watch the Padania national team play,” Bossi is reported as saying. “It’s more important than Berlusconi. I’ll see him tomorrow.”
The organisers claim that an average of 1,000 fans watched each of the matches in the week long series but independent reports suggest that at most 1,100 fans watched Padania’s opening game at the Stadio Silvio Piola in Novara. Other reports put the attendance as far lower.
The hosts’ team included a number of professionals, including Marco Murriero, a goalkeeper who has played with Udinese and Bellinzona, Giuliano Gentilini, a midfielder at Chievo Verona, and midfielder Gianpietro Piovani, who has played with Piacenza , Livorno and Brescia and scored the winner against Occitania.
Despite the NF Board’s claim that the tournament was not affected by politics, Monaco, who took part in the first Viva World Cup in 2006 in Hyeres, southern France, sat the tournament out due to state opposition to the idea of playing in a tournament with links to Lega Nord.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the breakaway state established in the north of the Mediterranean state, also declined to take part because Kurdistan’s involvement.
“I do not think that TRNC will ever play a team from Kurdistan,” said one source close to the Turkish Cypriot FA.
The Sami, the tribal people of northern Scandinavia, finishing third after a drawing 4-4 in normal time with Provence then winning 5-4 on penalties. Occitania beat the Maltese island of Gozo 2-1 to secure fifth place.
The tournament was the third Viva World Cup. In 2006, the Sami beat Monaco 21-1 in the final and last year Padania beat a team from the Aramean Suryoye minority in Sweden by 2-0 in a final staged in Gellivare in Swedish Samiland.
Gozo are due to stage the next Viva World Cup in 2010. “I think we’ll probably go to Gozo next year in order to find some team ready to defeat us,” added Mr Gallo.