Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Viva World Cup, soccer trophy for the world's yet-to-be nations...

It was illuminating that his most explicit answer on Kurdish self-determination surrounded the status of the Kurdish football team. It shouldn't have been a surprise as Barzani - a veteran of the Iraqi Kurds' attempts to gain independence - understands one thing only too well: to be a proper nation, you have to have a proper national football team, and vice versa. That was in January 2007. Fast forward to last week when the Kurdish national team took their first step towards footballing recognition by making their international tournament debut. They were not playing against their Iraqi cousins, nor anyone else from the Fifa family. Instead they turned out against the likes of Samiland (representing the Sami people of northern Scandinavia) and Padania (a team representing those wanting independence for northern Italy) at the Viva World Cup in Sweden, a competition for national teams unrecognised by the rest of the footballing and political world. But their success in flying the Kurdish flag could have far-reaching consequences for the Iraqi national football team, not to mention the territorial integrity of Iraq itself.

The Viva World Cup was the brainchild of the New Federations board, an organisation representing those regions, such as Tibet, Chechnya and Kosovo, orphaned from the rest of the footballing world. Footballing recognition through Fifa is a heated political issue. It's not unusual for aggrieved territories with high designs on statehood to use their national football team as a battering ram to normalise claims for political recognition. Palestine was controversially successful in its bid to join Fifa, while Gibraltar passed Fifa's original criteria for membership, only to be denied when the Spanish government, angered that the move could be the first step towards a break for independence, got involved and threatened to remove all Spanish teams from European and international competition. These 'countries' operate on the margins, tip-toeing around the game while trying not to antagonise the political heavyweights that surround them.

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See also: Soccer more popular than sex! Erotic festival can't compete with Euro 08!!!

And this: This should piss off all soccer fans!! Hilarious!

And this: If only soccer were this sexy...

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