Opening of the CONIFA tournament in Stepanakert on June 1, 2019. Official photo  



From June 1-9, Nagorno Karabakh is hosting the CONIFA European Football Cup, which involves teams from federations not recognized by FIFA, the largest international football federation.

CONIFA, which stands for the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, was set up in 2013 and includes a growing number of de-facto but internationally unrecognized states, such as Artsakh, or partly recognized states such as Abkhazia or Northern Cyprus, as well as federations intended to represent particular identities, such as Western Armenia or Arameans Suryoye. The association’s slogan is “Freedom to Play Football.”

The tournament in Artsakh includes eight teams, aside from the hosts and Western Armenia, they are Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two former autonomies of Soviet Georgia now recognized by Russia and few others as independent. The other participants include Chameria, a team set up on behalf of the Albanian minority in northwestern Greece; Székely, a sub-group of Hungarians living in central Romania; Sapmi, representing the Sami people of northern Finland and Scandinavia; and Padania, referring to the Po River valley in the north of Italy, currently ranked fourth of all CONIFA teams and tournament’s presumptive favorites.

Four other teams initially expected to take part – Sardinia of Italy, Counte of Nice (France) and Donetsk and Lugansk of Ukraine – did not make it to the tournament. The latter two teams reportedly had problems with travel documents. Sardinia, which only recently joined CONIFA, preferred to play with a team from neighboring island of Corsica. County of Nice also withdrew from previous CONIFA European Cup hosted by Northern Cyprus in 2017. That tournament did not include Armenian teams and was won by Padania.

After the fist day of competition, Artsakh beat Sapmi 3:2, Western Armenia lost to South Ossetia 1:2, Abkhazia did better than Chameria 3:1 and Padania routed Székely 4:0. For updates follow

Update: Some reversal of fortunes registered on day 2, as Artsakh was beaten by Chameria 1:4, South Ossetia beat Padania 2:1, Abkhazia beat Sapmi 1:0 and Western Armenia dominated over Szekely 5:0.