PtG Article 08.06.2006

Wild Cup may set precedent for non-members of FIFA

FIFA and the German football association, the DFB, have not prevented a tournament featuring countries rejected by FIFA to be played in the week before the World Cup.

Organised by Hamburg club, FC St Pauli, the ‘FIFI Wild Cup’ featured the home side, the British colony of Gibraltar, a team of exiled Tibetans, the African island of Zanzibar, North Cyprus and Greenland.

FIFA usually tries to stop games involving non members but not this time and although the German football federation tried to distance itself from the tournament, its resistance was only token.

Willi Hink, DFB head of amateur sports, referees and women’s football, says:

“We informed FIFA about this tournament and received the answer that the tournament is not covered by FIFA regulations so that they have no obligations because of the participance (sic) of non FIFA-members. So at the end its people who want to play football and there is also some social benefit. Let them play."

For St Pauli’s Steffen Frahm, who made this tournament happen in less than three months, the reaction from DFB was almost laughable.

He says: “We had a call from the DFB saying if we or anyone from our first team played they would stop it but that was all.”

“The Chinese consul also came and asked us to stop Tibet playing and of course we said ‘no’.”

St Pauli is renowned as Germany’s most alternative club with a large anti-fascist fan base but is languishing in the country’s third league.

This year, St Pauli made the German cup semi-finals and many of Hamburg’s prostitutes from the nearby Reeperbahn red light district took the day off to watch the match.

FIFA’s attitude is changing

At the Wild Cup, an announcer declared the stadium a “Sepp Blatter free zone” before the kick-off of the first match, when North Cyprus beat Greenland 1-0. Nevertheless, the tournament is the first sign that FIFA’s attitude to nations it has rejected is warming.

FIFA head of media Andreas Herren said: “We have heard about this tournament but were never asked for an official approval by the DFB. So we do not have any other information or regulations.”

FIFA usually tries to stop games involving non members, including a visit by top Turkish clubs sides to North Cyprus a decade ago and a match between Tibet and Greenland in Copenhagen in 2001, which went ahead anyway.

Recently, a group called the NF Board emerged aiming to federate non FIFA nations and this appears to have changed FIFA’s attitudes.

North Cyprus players hampered by politics

The tournament was won by North Cyprus after an unruly final against Zanzibar ended 0-0 with the Mediterranean side winning 4-1 on penalties.

For the players from the North Cyprus, the FIFI Wild Cup has been a welcome outlet as politics often intrude on the possibilities for playing.

In February, North Cyprus was due to play Monaco until pressure from Greek-dominated Cyprus persuaded the principality’s government to cancel the game. North Cyprus represents the Turkish part of the island that declared independence in 1983 – a move only recognised by Turkey – and was rejected by UEFA a decade ago.

Nationalist president Rauf Denktash was ousted in 2005 by Mehmet Ali Talat, who hopes football can help reach a political solution, and the North Cyprus FA has offered to return to an all-island league with clubs from the south that was in place until the 1960s. This offer has been rejected.

Runners-up were from Zanzibar, an autonomous part of Tanzania with a Football Federation dating back  to 1891. Zanzibar was rejected by FIFA last year and kicked out of the Confederation of African Football before being recently re-admitted as an associate member.

Abdulghang Himid Msoma, chairman of Zanzibar’s national sports council and the national team’s coach said: “The union of Tanzania is very different, only defence, external affairs and some policy matters are included, not sport and culture. We believe that FIFA will understand us and playing in this tournament will help.”

Wild Cup may hamper planned World Cup

The new NF Board has plans for a world cup for nations that do not exist. It is provisionally scheduled to take place in Northern Cyprus in September 2006.

The plans are delayed, however, and may now have been blown out of the water by the FIFI Wild Cup. Several of the participating teams doubt that they will be able to get their players together again for another week of matches.

So the Wild Cup might not only be a one-off for the DFB and FIFA but also, in the short term at least, for some of the teams competing.