Friday, 9 February 2018

Jersey UEFA bid


Jersey's bid to be accepted as a member of UEFA will be heard at the European body's congress later this month.

Anyone interested in Jersey's attempt to join UEFA might be interested in this piece of mine on the World Football show on the BBC World Service, which can be downloaded here.

A story on the same subject is in the February 2018 issue of World Soccer magazine.

Photo: Jersey vs Kent in the FA Inter League Cup in St Helier. (c) Steve Menary 2018

Monday, 31 July 2017

Cast out even further

Does FIFA want any more members?
Recent events suggest not as potential applicants such as French Guiana and Zanzibar are not only being discouraged but also punished and the shadow of FIFA’s new president Gianni Infantino hovers over these moves.
At the recent 2017 Gold Cup, French Guiana had a 0-0 draw with Honduras over-turned and the match given as a 3-0 win to their opponents as punishment for playing Florent Malouda, who had previously played for France 80 times but then featured for the land of his birth at the recent Caribbean Cup (below, right).

An undisclosed fine was also levied on the Ligue de Football de Guyane (LFG), who believed that CONCACAF rules that had allowed another former Les Bleus Jocelyn Angloma (below) to play for Guadeloupe in the 2007 Gold Cup after a five-year gap since his last France appearance should stand.
Other examples also exist, such as former Spurs forward Ruel Fox, who played for England B in 1994 then represented Montserrat a decade later when he was the manager of the British overseas territory. 
French territories have also played at previous Gold Cups and Martinique - another French territory also outside of FIFA - was also playing at the 2017 edition.

The decision by CONCACAF’s to start adhering to FIFA rules only now smacks either of muddled thinking - or outside interference from FIFA.
The decision also looks spiteful. On the eve of the Gold Cup, the LFG said it was considering quitting the confederation due to the crusade against the Caribbean nations that make up the bulk of CONCACAF’s members by its North American leadership.
The LFG is considering joining CONMEBOL, which in terms of geography and travel links makes more sense.
The LFG was made a full CONCACAF member in 2013 along with the other French territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saint Martin, by CONCACAF’s then president Jeffrey Webb.
The four French territories seemed set for FIFA membership but this was stopped by both political opposition in Paris and the arrest of Webb for racketeering in May 2015.
The Canadian Victor Montagliani was elected was Webb’s permanent replacement in May 2016. By this time, Infantino had his feet under the president’s desk at FIFA.
Montagliani is considered very much Infantino’s man; so is the new CAF president Ahmad, who in March 2017 ousted long-standing Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Issa Hayatou.
At the same March 2017 assembly that saw his demise, a motion from Hayatou that Zanzibar be prompted from an associate member of CAF to a full member was passed.
In June, Zanzibar reportedly applied to join FIFA but a month later Ahmad, who goes by a single name, over-ruled his own assembly.
Zanzibar’s membership was removed to the disgust of many on the island, which is part of Tanzania but has played independently in African regional competitions such as the CECAFA Cup for three quarters of a century.
Zanzibar also runs its own separate league to Tanzania, enters teams in CAF competitions and had its CAF application approved by Tanzania football federation president Jamal Malinzi. 
So why make the U-turn now?
In July, Ahmad pushed through major changes at CAF such as expanding the African Cup of Nations to 24 teams.
These changes would have needed tacit support from FIFA and Infantino, so perhaps there was a cost?

Admitting Zanzibar (in action against Somalia above) to FIFA would have given CAF as many members as UEFA and led to the inevitable debate over the number of future places at a World Cup.
Sacrificing Zanzibar was easy and the U-turn barely registered outside of the African Island, but like CONCACAF’s move was also muddled and hard to believe.
"CAF cannot admit two different associations from one country," Ahmad told the BBC at the body's extraordinary congress in Morocco. "The definition of a country comes from the African Union and the United Nations," added the Malagasy administrator.
Did CAF’s president really need four months to make himself aware of Article 4 of his own statutes, which state ‘CAF shall recognise only one association per country”?
Those statutes also say that new members can only be admitted and expelled by the general assembly, and mention nothing about the United Nations or African Union.
This year, UEFA made a minor – and largely unnoticed – change to its membership criteria.
Previously, Article 5 said that "membership of UEFA is open to national football associations situated in the continent of Europe, based in a country which is recognised by the United Nations as an independent state, and which are responsible for the organisation and implementation of football-related matters in the territory of their country."
The updated version says that new members must be recognised “as an independent state by the majority of members of the United Nations.”
That minor tweak almost certainly rules out any attempts by the likes of the Channel island of Jersey to join UEFA and justifies the begrudging admission in May 2016 of Kosovo, which was virtually forced on the European body by FIFA during the reign of disgraced former president Sepp Blatter.
So, these federations rendered outcasts in Infantino’s new world order must labour on with little support or development from the bodies supposedly responsible for developing football in these isolated places.
Or from FIFA.
And there’s the rub. Is there perhaps another motive for this hardening stance to potential new members?
To get elected, Infantino pledged to raise FIFA’s Financial Assistance Programme to the world body’s 211 members from U$D1 million every four years to U$D5 million.
Before FIFA’s presidential election, rival candidate Jerome Champagne warned of the potentially catastrophic effect of this move on FIFA’s finances (below).

Champagne was ignored and Infantino won by a landslide as the small, impoverished associations which make up the bulk of FIFA’s membership swung firmly behind the Swiss Italian and his costly FAP offer.
Since then, sponsors for FIFA’s 2018 and 2022 World Cups – the world body’s main earner – have proved slow to emerge when compared to the last tournament in Brazil in 2014.
FIFA is desperate for cash and federations have complained at the speed of money coming through from FIFA’s Forward programme, which replaced the GOAL development scheme.
Maybe other costs are also being cut and FIFA is making sure that no new members emerge from its six confederations to try and claim a their share of the FAP pot?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Europeada 2016




The Europeada tournament in the Italian Tyrol is running for a third time in parallel with the UEFA European Championships.

The 2016 tournament features a number of teams with an interesting political backstory, including the Hungarian Roma and a side from the Crimea.

For more details, read my preview of the tournament on Bleacher Report here.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Why Spanish footballers are flooding into Gibraltar



Europa FC celebrate after beating reigning champions Lincoln Red Imps (C) Steve Menary 2016

Readers of this blog may be interested in this short report of mine carried by the BBC World Football programme on the influx of Spanish footballers into Gibraltar since the British Overseas territory was admitted to UEFA in 2013.

The piece is in this week's World Football show and can be accessed here.

A feature on football in Gibraltar in World Soccer magazine's Eye Witness series is in the April 2016 issue and can be read here.



Thursday, 10 September 2015

Greenland feature



Any readers interested in Greenlandic football might be interested in this feature of mine at Bleacher Report.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Greenland at the 2015 Island Games


Greenland made what is their only regular international football appearance at the last Island Games in Jersey and, despite missing out on a medal, were one of only two teams to finish the tournament unbeaten.

Greenland had won a silver medal at the last Island Games in Bermuda two years ago, but that only featured four teams. In Jersey, so many of the Island Games Association's 24 members entered football teams that the organisers had to restrict the field to 16 teams and turn teams away.



Greenland's Ethiopian coach Tekle Ghebrelul (pictured above) was left to rue his team twice giving away a hard secured lead against Menorca in their opening game, which finished 2-2. In their second match at St Clement, Greenland (in white, below) easily dispatched the Finnish island of Aland 2-0 and had a chance to make the semi-finals if they beat the Estonians of Saarema in their final match and results elsewhere went their way.


The impressive Frederick Funch, (below) a children's worker in Nuuk whose opportunities two years ago in Hamilton were restricted by injury, scored for a third consecutive game in a 2-1 win over Saarema but that was not enough. Menorca progressed on goal difference and Greenland were left to contend a play-off with 2011 winners the Island of Wight for fifth place.


Greenland beat the Isle of Wight 2-1 but now have to sit about waiting for a game. The GBU has plans for €10 million indoor arena in Nuuk with an artificial pitch but the Arctic island's strict building regulations and lack of money are major obstacles.



For more on the 2011 Island Games, read my piece in the July 2015 issue of World Soccer magazine and for more on Greenlandic football, my piece for the BBC World Football programme is available for download here.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A full size pitch at last for Greenland

Photo: copyright Tønnes Berthelsen 2015.


After years of trying by the locals (but no help from FIFA), Greenland is to finally get a full-size artificial pitch.

Greenland is the largest island in the world and football the most popular sport. More than 10% of the circa 56,000 population play regularly, but the the harsh winters mean that all the pitches are sand and stone. No players can wear shorts and the prohibitive cost of a full-size artificial pitch is beyond the local national association, the GBU.

Greenland has self-government but has been denied membership (and direct financial help) from FIFA, although the Danish association did secure funding from FIFA's Goal programme to lay a pitch in Qaqortoq a number of years ago.

The pitch at Qaqortoq is only 35m by 65m. Another pitch has been laid after former national coach Tønnes Berthelsen managed to raise 300,000 Danish Kronar (about €40,000) but the surface at Maniitsoq (pictured) is only 20m by 41m.

A proposal was put to the island's government some years ago for funding a full-size pitch. That did not materialise but a full-size pitch is finally on the horizon. Berthelsen says: "In [the capital] Nuuk we are planning to establish a pitch of 40 x 65 meters from June this year. It will be financed by fisheries company Polar Seafood. In Qeqertarsuaq a private donor has sponsored a full size artificial pitch. It is expected to be constructed this year."

Too late to help Greenland prepare for their appearance at the football competition at this year's Island Games in Jersey but progress all the same and without FIFA. Another sign that football can both survive and flourish without the increasingly beleaguered world body.



Saturday, 19 July 2014

Garabagh Agdam


(Photo: Garabagh Agdam in black in action vs Shaktar Donetsk; (c) Steve Menary 2014).

Anyone interested in Nagorno Karabakh and Garabagh Agdam, the team exiled from there after the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia more than 20 years ago, might be interested in listening to this piece of mine on the World Football show on BBC World Service.

The segment is on the edition broadcast on July 17 and includes interviews with members of the team during their recent training camp in Austria ahead of Garabagh Agdam's maiden Champions League matches starting this month against Valetta of Malta.

The piece can be accessed here.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Vatican vs Monaco



Anyone interested in the Vatican vs Monaco match in Rome last weekend can hear a short radio piece on the World Football show on BBC World Service by clicking here

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Far Post

Outcasts' readers might be interested in his article of mine in the Far Post series, which is a collaboration between Sports Illustrated and the excellent Roads & Kingdoms website: http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2014/the-non-fifa-renegades/

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Kiribati asks for FIFA return


The Kiribati Football Association (KFA) has invited the Oceania Football Association and FIFA to return to the scattered collection of Pacific islands in 2015 to see if sufficient improvements have been made to justify membership of the OFA and the world body.

The KFA has been pursuing full membership of both bodies for years and is an associate member of the OFC, which provides an annual grant of NZD$ 30,000. But after a visit in 2013, FIFA’s response was to send 300 balls to Kiribati and has subsequently insisted any queries must now be directed to the regional body, the OFC.

KFA president Ioteba Redfern says: “We have not heard from FIFA. The last time we had contact with them was last year in which they replied to my email and they advised us that we should approach OFC regarding everything as OFC is the responsible body to contact.

“It is good we continue to receive annual grant [from the OFC]. For other matters, there have been no response whatsoever from OFC.

“Mid last year, we proposed to OFC and FIFA if they could visit us again in 2015 to inspect KIFA and how it operates and see if it has improved from the last visit but there has been no response yet. We really want this visit to take place as I feel we will pass the test if this visit takes place as we are now working on the things that FIFA recommended we should improve. “

After FIFA’s visit, the KFA were left with the impression by the world body’s delegates that a national competition was first needed to show evidence of organised football. Even though other FIFA members as disparate as Montserrat in the Caribbean and Liechtenstein in Europe do not have leagues, the KFA has tried to organise one but found the cost of organisation a competition for clubs from 33 islands prohibitive.



Redfern estimated that staging a competition would cost more than the entire OFC grant, but this year hopes to get a Kiribati championship off the ground. He adds: “This year we will start the inter-island football championships in which all the islands will take part. Also, we are planning to host an international futsal or 11-a-side tournaments in which neighboring islands will be invited to take part.”

The KFA is also compiling a more professional annual report in the hope of a return visit by FIFA and the OFC next year. “I am confident we will be ready for their inspection in 2015,” says Redfern.

The KFA is not commenting on exactly where the KFA is getting the NZD$ 40,000 or more that the original estimates showed it would cost to stage. Staging the competition would be a costly gamble, but as all FIFA members get U$D 250,000 a year through the financial assistance programme it’s wager that the KFA clearly feel is necessary. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Kosovo: another two decades before their first competitive match?



Kosovo’s footballers could face another two decades in the wilderness despite FIFA allowing the former Yugoslav republic to play international friendlies against members of the world body. That is the view of Kosovo’s former manager, Edmond Rugova.

FIFA’s recent decision to over-rule UEFA came highly-qualified as the Kosovan team that takes the field cannot wear the country’s colours or other national symbols, play any other former members of Yugoslavia and must give FIFA 21 days’ notice of any proposed match.

After years of filibustering by UEFA, FIFA’s emergency committee made the ruling after a meeting chaired by FIFA president Sepp Blatter and including president of the Football Association of Serbia, Tomislav Karadzic, and Football Federation of Kosovo president Fadil Vokrri earlier this month.

“The decision taken by the FIFA Emergency Committee represents a major boost for football development in Kosovo and it once again confirms the extraordinary power of our sport to bring people together,” said Blatter.

But Rugova disagrees.

“No national anthem, No national colors and can't play neighbouring countries for the next two years, whatever that means,” says Rugova. “In a sense it's very disappointing news and it falls way short again, of a full membership with equal rights.

“FFK will have to except (sic) the news as a step in a right direction and continue on under FIFA's mercy.

“Players like [Lorik] Cana, [Shefki] Kuqi and many others will never get the opportunity to represent Kosovo in any official competition... another generation lost.

“Cana was 22 years old when I took over back in 2006 and will turn 31 this summer and in the sunset of his career. With the emergence of Xherdan Shaqiri, Adnan Januzaj and soon to be Sinan Bytyqi of Manchester City and many others hope rises again and hopefully they are the ones that get the opportunity.

“[But] Euro 2016 and the World Cup in Russia in 2018 will not include Kosovo in the qualifiers and here is why.

“Not being allowed to play friendlies versus the neighbouring countries for the next two years eliminates Euro 2016 and the close alliance of Serbia and Russia will never allow Kosovo as an independent country to participate in the qualifiers for the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

“FIFA and Sepp Blatter have the power to do the right thing but I'm certain it won’t have the will nor the guts to oppose Serbia, Russia and its allies. Back in 2008 I predicted that it will take 10 years before Kosovo is admitted in to FIFA. Now [it] looks like 15-20 years is a more realistic number, if that... unbelievable.”

Unbelieveable yes, but possibly all too believeable.