Wednesday, 25 June 2014
That Which Has Been Born: Part 2 of 2
Frederic Carver finishes off what he started on the alternative World Cup. Find his brilliant blog here, which he hasn't updated for a year but is still well worth a trawl.
Last post I started off ranting about Marxism and then started to tell you the story of the delightfully quirky ConIFA World Cup – the World Cup for countries who struggle to obtain. I introduced the cast, now I’m going to tell you how they did.
The 12 team were divided into four groups of three. Group round robins would determine which two would then advance to the quarter finals.
In Group A Arameans Suryoye had a late comeback 2-1 win over Iraqi Kurdistan with goals in the 78th and 84th minute. That would prove decisive for the group as both teams would beat Tamil Eelam, the Kurds putting 9 goals past them, although in part this was due to Tamil Eelam having their keeper sent off and – lacking a substitute keeper – an outfield player having to don the gloves.
Group B was the most competitive, after an 82nd minute Occitanian own goal led to a 1-1 draw with Abkhazia both teams would narrowly beat the hosts Sápmi: Abkhazia’s 2-1 win edging them ahead of Occitania who only won 1-0.
Group C wasn’t quite so hard fought. Darfur went down 20-0 losers to Padania and 19-0 losers to South Ossetia. Russian Second Division striker Artur Yelbayev’s 8 goals in the Darfur-South Ossetia match being almost as many as he had scored in his previous five years of club football. Padania then beat South Ossetia 3-1 to top the group.
Group D was more exciting. Ellan Vannin came back from 2-0 down against Nagorno-Karabakh to win 3-2 and then beat Nice 4-2 to win the group. A goal in the 7th minute was enough for Nice to beat Nagorno-Karabakh 1-0 and qualify as well.
Then followed a “placement round” in which the eliminated teams played each other to determine their final standings and also to give everyone the chance to score some more goals against Darfur. A 12-0 loss to Nagorno-Karabakh and a 10-0 loss to Tamil Eelam meant that Darfur ended the tournament with a record of played: 4, lost: 4, goals for: 0, goals against: 61. But given that the Darfur team is made up of a bunch of kids from refugee camps in the Chadian desert, and the tournament was held in Lapland, it seems unfair to mock. Had the tournament been held somewhere hotter they probably would have only conceded 50.
After their final match up to six Darfuri players went missing amidst suggestions that they had sought asylum, gone to visit relatives in Norway, or had simply scarpered due to having no pressing desire to return to refugee camps where the lack of food and basic amenities was making the situation intolerable. Chad are apparently threatening to stop all football in refugee camps unless the wayward six return. Which is a bit mean.
Meanwhile in the quarter finals Nice sprang a shock result beating the group topping Padania side 2-1 in the north-Italian and should-be-Italian derby. It was to be the only result from open play in the quarters as all three other fixtures went to penalties. Abkhazia drew 0-0 with Georgian rivals South Ossetia and then missed every single penalty to go out; while Arameans Suryoye had to sink 7 penalties in a row before overcoming Occitania following their 0-0. Iraqi Kurdistan were beating Ellan Vannin for much of their match but an 80th minute Seamus Sharkey goal drew the Manx level and they would go on to win on penalties.
A second placement round then ordered the teams that went out at the quarter final stage – and after three more penalty shootouts those no longer participating in the tournament were ordered as follows: 5th place Padania
6th place Iraqi Kurdistan
7th place Occitania
8th place Abkhazia
9th place Nagorno-Karabakh
10th place Sápmi
11th place Tamil Eelam
12th place Darfur
After such a close set of quarter finals the Semis and third place playoff were surprisingly wide – a suggestion perhaps that the seeding mechanisms for quasi-international football haven’t quite been perfected. Nice were up after just 3 minutes against South Ossetia and romped home 3-0 winners while Ellan Vannin were only mildly perturbed by going 1-0 down in the first 10 minutes against Arameans Suryoye – levelling before half time and running out comfortable 4-1 winners.
Arameans Suryoye’s 4-1 win over South Ossetia in the playoff saw them take third place. George Kacho celebrated his hattrick for Arameans Suryoye by pulling of his shirt to display the slogan “RIP Bassam & Naim Touma”, a reference to two Swedish Assyrian brothers who were murdered this April. There had been some speculation in the Assyrian community that they had been killed by a gang from Syria and so theirs had become something of a totemic case for race relations in the area.
And so the stage was set for the 2014 ConIFA World Football Cup Final: a replay of the initial group match between Nice and Ellan Vannin. Ellan Vannin, 250-1 shouts at the start of the tournament, were now favourites after their first round performance, but Nice had been performing better in every single game they played. Literally dozens thronged to a pub in the capital city of Douglas and to a moderately sized screen in Nice to see if Ellan Vannin or Nice would become the greatest of all the not-real countries.
Sadly it was a really boring 0-0 draw and Nice won on penalties.
So what’s this all for, and what does it mean? Well judging by the highlights football was sometimes, but not always, the winner after 90 minutes (or 120 minutes as it much more frequently was). Lots of “awareness” (ugh) was raised for some political causes good, bad, weird, and sinister; but broadly speaking people aren’t going to suddenly change their mind about north Italian fascism when they hear that a team of jobbing Serie C players showed a bit of pluck in Lapland. Lots of teams, Ellan Vannin in particular, raised a lot of money for genuinely good causes in Darfur, and if a handful of people were able to use the tournament to escape to a better life then it was worth it for that alone. Fundamentally very few people noticed that it had happened, but it did no harm and had a certain mad charm to it. To leave off where we came in: a made-up non nation seems like just as valid an arbitrary thing to base a football team around as anything else – real countries included.