ConIFA 2018: A Little Background on… Group A
The 2018 ConIFA World Football Championships, which are being held in London, kick off in just five days, with sixteen teams representing areas and peoples that are not affiliated with FIFA. We’ve got previews of each of the nations coming up, kicking off with Group A. Matches are being held at Sutton United, Fisher, Carshalton Athletic, Bromley and Haringey, and the second match to be played in the group, in the evening on the opening day of the tournament, will be refereed by Mark Clattenburg, of all people. The four teams competing in this group are Barawa, Ellen Vannin, Tamil Eelam, and Cascadia.
Background: Barawa is the national football team which represents the Somali diaspora living in the United Kingdom, and they are the “host” nation for this tournament. The team is named for the port city of Barawa in Somalia. Formed in 2015, the aim of the team is to promote barawanese culture around the world. They’re coached by Omar Sufi, who also doubles up as their record appearance holder, having won thirteen caps for his team before assuming a managerial role.
The Kit: Barawa’s kit for this tournament has been made by AMS, and is in a very fetching red, blue and green design. Shirts for this tournament can be sponsored, and Barawa’s are sponsored by London East Halal Ltd. You can even buy one, should you wish to, from here.
The Squad: As a team representing the Somali diaspora in the UK, Barawa’s team is selected from players who may even be familiar to those with an intimate knowledge of non-league and lower division football here. Agruably their best known player is Aryan Tajbaksh, who started his career in the non-league game, playing for a variety of teams – including St Albans City of the National League South, Maidenhead United and Enfield Town – before signing for Crawley Town in the summer of 2016. He has made more than twenty appearances for Crawley since then, as well as spending time on loan with another National League South side, Wealdstone. Their only previous tournament experience came in the 2016 World Unity Cup, at which they were eliminated at the group stage after winning one of their three matches.
Background: There are two national teams representing the Isle of Man, but both have different statuses. The Isle of Man national team fields players of any nationality who play in the island’s league, but their affiliation to the Football Association gives them the equivalent status to an English County. Ellan Vannin, on the other hand, have gone down a different path, sticking to FIFA eligibility rules instead. There is a memo of understanding between the two associations, and they even played against each other for the first time in Douglas in April 2014, with Ellan Vannin winning by ten goals to nil. Ellan Vannin played in the final of the inaugural ConIFA World Football Championship in 2014, losing to Szekely Land on penalty kicks, despite having beaten them in the group stages of the competition. They did not travel to Abkhazia for the 2016 tournament.
The Kit: Ellan Vannin’s kit is in red and yellow, and such has been the level of interest in it of late that the Manx International Football Association recently confirmed that the shirts would be available to buy. You can see more about that on this Facebook post.
The Squad: Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of Ellan Vannin players come from clubs that play in the Isle of Man’s league. Four clubs – Peel, St Georges, Rushen United and Corinthians – provide twenty-one of their twenty-three man squad, with the other two being Seamus Sharkey of League of Ireland club Sligo Rovers and Alex Holden of Northern Counties East League side Bottesford Town.
Background: The Tamil Eelam team, which consists of semi-professional and amateur players drawn from the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora community in Canada, United Kingdom and Switzerland. Established in 2012, they took part in the first ConIFA World Football Championships in 2014, losing both of their group matches before winning their placement match to end the tournament in eleventh place.
The Kit: Tamil Ellam play their matches in yellow and red striped shirts, red shorts and red socks, with a change kit of black and white striped shirts, black shorts and black socks, although their kit doesn’t appear to be available to putchase or view onine anywhere.
The Squad: Tamil Eelam are bringing one of the most international squads of any to this tournament, with players from Canada, France, Italy, Germany, England, the Netherlands and Switzerland all making the final squad of players. Only two have played senior non-league football in England – reserve goalkeeper Robert Osman played for Epsom Athletic, a Surrey South Eastern Combination club who folded during the 2017/18 season, whilst the Danish born defender Jeyasiva Sivapathasundaram has been on the books of Enfield Town, Wealdstone, Grays Athletic, Leatherhead, Cray Wanderers, Tonbridge Angels and, most recently, Harlow Town.
Background: Cascadia is the team representing the Cascadia area of North America, which encompasses the Pacific Northwest Bioregion – the whole of Washington state, in the north-western corner of the United States of America, alongside parts of Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, as well as Yukon and British Columbia, in Canada. The association was founded at the end of 2012, and this is their first major tournament.
The Kit: Might this be the most attractive kit to be seen at this year’s tournament? Designed in blue, white and green, it seems to have been in the prototype stage at the time of writing. It is to be hoped that there will be some way of getting hold of one in London during the tournament. The reasoning behind design of the kit seems clear when we look at an aerial view of the region.
The Squad: Cascadia are bringing an experienced squad to this summer’s tournament. The stand-out name is that of captain James Tiley, who played more than two hundred and fifty MLS games for names as familiar as San Jose Earthquakes, New England Revolution, Seattle Sounders, DC United and LA Galaxy. He retired from playing professionally in 2016, but continues to work for Seattle Sounders. Elsewhere, twenty-three year old forward Callum Ferguson is currently on the books of Scottish League Two club Elgin City, and has also played for Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Montrose and Albion Rovers within the Scottish leagues. English clubs represented within their squad include Sporting Bengal United, Corinthian-Casuals, Banbury United, Wingate & Finchley, Barnet, Hertford Town, Northwood and Waltham Forest.