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11.06.2019 14:22

CONIFA president hails tournament as success

With the 2019 CONIFA European Cup done and dusted until the next one in 2021, the reactions of the media around the world and the squads that have competed is now the most important thing.

While the players and fans from South Ossetia will no doubt still be celebrating a momentous win, which came at the same time as they held political elections, some teams will be nursing their wounds and figuring out how to make themselves competitive for the 2020 CONIFA World Cup.

Many people tuned in for the first time to watch the tournament, and it undoubtedly got more coverage than it has done in recent years. There were many factors that contributed to this, but increased media stories and attention coupled with the story of Armenian player Henrikh Mkhitaryan being refused a visa for Azerbaijan to compete in the Europa League final chimed in with the spirit of CONIFA.

The reason that Mkhitaryan could not travel was because Azerbaijan and Armenia do not recognise each other’s claim to the Artsakh region, where the 2019 CONIFA European Cup was held.

Per-Anders Blind, the CONIFA president, believes that this tournament has shown the world what these regions are capable of when it comes to sport and progression as areas that want self-recognition and an ability to play sport as a common entity.

The motto behind it seems to have worked well, and Blind believes that the whole competition was organised and played at a level suitable for a world tournament. This gives hope to the idea that future tournaments will continue to grow in size and stature.

Blind felt that it was improving “better than planned” when it came to the level of increasing interest in this aspect of football, as more people shun high-money transfers and clubs removed from an identity. It seems that this belief in the flag and people trying to unite behind it with local people and players has struck a chord, and this will help CONIFA’s efforts to publicise the 2020 CONIFA World Cup in Somaliland.

He said that the next step is to “reach a new level of development”, which would come towards the end of the year when they hope to acquire paid employees rather than the volunteers they are relying on at present. The ability to bring in high-level sponsors such as has undoubtedly furthered this aim.

For now, while the dust still settles on those football pitches in Artsakh, there is a lot to digest for the fans and sides competing, but plans are already underway to build on these successes and take the CONIFA project to new heights.

Words: Jonah Farrell

Images: PA