Spring has almost sprung, and the football season is about to climax. This year an alternative football cup is about to become the new trend: The CONIFA European Football cup combines the love of sports with cultural diversity.
Without any question the FIFA world cup and the UEFA European Championship are great. To see football stars like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric playing cannot be missed by any football fan.
But these events only happen every two years and the next European Championship will be held in 2020 so the time in between needs to be filled. And there is good news for football fans: An alternative international tournament will be held for the third time in June 2019.
The CONIFA European Football cup
Many might not have heard of the CONIFA European Football cup yet but it had become more and more important over the last few years as an alternative football event. The tournament is organised by the CONIFA which is short for the Confederation of Independent Football Associations.
It hosts football competitions between de-facto nations, minorities, displaced diasporas and sports-isolated territories. Besides that it acts like a non-governmental organisation with volunteers around the world who aim to bring football teams outside of FIFA together into international competitions.
But what is so special about the CONIFA? While everyone knows the countries in the FIFA world cup such as Argentina, France, England or Spain, the participants of the CONIFA European Football cup are not as well known.
Twelve teams are scheduled to participate this year such as the host Artsakh, Padania, Sápmi, Székely Land or Chameri. The teams are like the organisation itself: They represent different minorities from all across Europe.
In 2019 the tournament will take place in the Republic of Artsakh from June 1st to June 9th. The Republic of Artsakh is a de-facto independent country in the South Caucasus which declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Since then the country is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. Between 1991 and 2017 the country was known as Nagorno-Karabakh Republic but changed its name to Republic of Artsakh after a referendum that was held in February 2017. The CONIFA European Football cup will be held in the capital city Stepanakert, the city of Askeran and Martakert.
The rules of the tournament are similar to the FIFA world cup and the UEFA European Championship. In the first round the teams have to play against each other within their groups which consist of three teams each.
The two winner teams of each group will play in the Knockout stage which means the quarter finals, then the semi-finals, a third-place play-off and two teams will make it into the final. In 2017 Padania won the last European Football cup – but will the team be able to defend their title this year? We will know by June 9th.
The CONIFA has more than 50 members from five continents and its events have risen from unknown tournaments to a fairly big events, like the CONIFA world cup in London in 2018.
This year’s tournament aims to become even bigger and wants to reach more football fans around the world. Therefore, the CONFIA decided to partner up with the betting platform sportsbet.io which recently became the official sponsor of the tournament. Sportbet.io wants to support volunteers all around the world as well as help the countries and regions develop.
In February Joe McCallum, Director of Sportsbook at Sportsbet.io said: “Sportsbet.io’s values match very closely with those of CONIFA. We are both disrupt innovators who want to create something fun, fast and fair. This is what makes us perfect partners.”
CONIFA hopes that with the help of the sponsor it can start paying their staff a salary as well as supporting team members all over the world: “Many of CONIFA’s members struggle to get even the most basic of equipment. By nature CONIFA works with many groups who are stateless, voiceless and persecuted, and who can’t get access to finance or equipment,” says CONIFA member development manager Paul Watson.