PtG Article 23.09.2005

The First Football World Cup for Nations that Do Not Exist

Knowledge bank: The breakaway republic of Northern Cyprus is set to host the first ever world cup for nations that don't exist. Recognised only by Turkey, which invaded the Mediterranean island in 1974, Northern Cyprus will host the 16-team Viva World Cup in November 2006.

The tournament is being organised by the New Federation Board, a new organisation set up by a group of Swiss, Belgians and French to cater for 'countries' outside of UEFA. With more than 90 pitches and a number of stadiums, the biggest holding 28,000 people, Northern Cyprus was given the right to host the tournament at an NF Board meeting in London in June, where the organisation's first 17 provisional members were elected.

Among their number are Somaliland, an unrecognised breakaway state in East Africa and a team representing the Sami (also knowna s Lapps), an indigenous people of 70,000 scattered across Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Russia.

Sami playing professionally include Blackburn's Morten Gamst Pedersen and Leif Isak Nilut, President of the Norwegian-based Sami Football Association, wants to bring as many top players to Northern Cyprus as possible. He said: "We are not a problem with FIFA or Norway because we are not a state but four different countries."

The Sami will play in a warm-up tournament for the event in Northern Cyprus this autumn that will also feature Kosovo (not yet board members) and Monaco. The latter s a member of the United Nations but never pursued UEFA membership for fear of jeopardising AS Monaco's place in the French league.

Other provisional NF Board members include Tibet - annexed by China in 1949 - Zanzibar, which forms part of Tanzania but retains membership of the Confédération Africaine de Football, the Roma, a team representing Europe's gypsies, and Gibraltar, refused membership to UEFA after Spain threatened to pull out of European tournaments if the Rock's residents were allowed in.

The final NF Board member is a team from the Indian Ocean islands of the Chagos, whose population was cleared by the UK government in the early 1970s to make away for a US Airforce base and dumped in Mauritius and the Seychelles. After belatedly being granted leave to work in the UK, around 200 Chagos, mainly men, arrived at Gatwick Airport last year and are organising a team.

Football representatives from Kurdistan in northern Iraq attended the NF Board meeting along with a member of Chechnya's national team, which is culled mostly from exiles in the UK and France, plus football federations from Occitania in southern France and Jersey in the Channel Islands. Jersey play in the South West Counties league against the likes of Devon and Cornwall and secretary Gill Morgan said: "The only concern we have with the NF Board is the cost of playing in this tournament as we don't have a sponsor."

All the 'nations' at the NF Board meeting are expected to play in the Viva World Cup and a number of other non-countries denied a chance to play representative football are also interested. These include the Danish territory of Greenland, which has been denied membership of UEFA, the south Pacific island of Tuvalu and the Falkland Islands, whose national side will play in the bi-annual Island Games in Shetland during July.