Abkhazia wins 'alternative World Cup'

Breakaway Georgian region Abkhazia wins football world cup for unrecognised countries and diasporas after defeating Panjab 6-5 on penalties.

Photo by: CONIFA
Photo by: CONIFA

The breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia has won an unofficial international football tournament for unrecognised territories and diasporas.

Abkhazia was crowned champion of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) World Cup tournament after defeating Panjab 6-5 on penalties on Sunday.

The final of the tournament, which is seen as an alternative World Cup for teams unable to play in the official tournament, was being played in Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia.

Abkhazia broke off from Georgia with the help of Russian military action in August 2008 and gained recognition from Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru.

Abkhazia football team

However, the rest of the international community deems the region formerly known as the Soviet Florida to be Russian-occupied territory belonging to Georgia.

Runners-up Panjab represented the Punjabi diaspora based in northern India and eastern Pakistan.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is only recognised by Turkey, clinched third-place after defeating northern Italy-based Padania 2-0.

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus football team

In total, 12 teams out of 35 members took part in the tournament. Among the footballing body’s most significant members are Quebec, Iraqi Kurdistan, Greenland, Somaliland, Darfur, Tibet and even a team for Europe’s Romani people.

CONIFA was established in 2013 and held its first tournament in Sweden in 2014, where the French County Nice lifted the trophy after beating the Isle of Man in the final.

The non-profit organisation hopes to hold its version of the World Cup every two years.

The president of CONIFA, Per-Anders Blind, is an ethnic Sami from the Swedish-Norwegian border.

Samis are indigenous Uralic people mainly living in the Lapland region that covers parts of northern Norway, northern Sweden, northern Finland and north-western Russia. Although they are traditionally known for reindeer-herding, the Sami people also took part in the tournament.

Per-Anders Blind

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Blind explained his reason for starting CONIFA saying: "My father is a reindeer herder in the Swedish and Norwegian mountains. I was born and raised as part of a group of forgotten people, the Sami, and endured discrimination because of that."

"Perhaps because of this, I have sacrificed my own money and relationships to ensure that anyone can take part in an international tournament," he added.

TRTWorld and agencies