This September, Europe’s national teams start their qualifying matches for the 2012 World Cup with their newest member –
The problem for the
As a new book, Outcasts! The Lands That FIFA Forgot, shows the pariah state of the TRNC is one of many would-be members and the Northern Cypriots do at least have FIFA’s ear.
Teams from both communities played in an all-island league until 1955, when Çetinkaya, the strongest Turkish Cypriot side and the last winners of the all-island league in 1952/53, were barred from playing a match against a Greek Cypriot side, Pezoporikos, in the capital
The Turkish Cypriot sides split off and formed their own federation, the Kıbrıs Türk Futbol Federasyonu (KTFF) that same year.
When independence was declared, the Turkish Cypriots insisted that the deal included separate sporting bodies for the two communities, who were soon feuding.
The inter-communal violence saw the Turkish Cypriots retreat to the north of the island and worsened until, in 1974 a Greek-inspired coup prompted
After this invasion, the KTFF organized ad hoc ‘international’ matches against the likes of
In 1983, that all ended. The TRNC declared itself a republic under hardline nationalist leader Rauf Denktas in a declaration still only recognized by the Northern Cypriot’s Turkish sponsors.
The KTFF was thrown into international isolation and the Turkish Cypriot footballers were left in a curious limbo.
The obvious place for ambitious players wanting to make a living from the game was
“Everyone asks me what is your nationality and I say ‘the Turkish part of
In the southern Greek-dominated part of
In 2004, Denktas was replaced as president by the more moderate Mehmet Ali Talat, who favoured uniting the island under a UN plan, which also allowed for separate sporting teams following the
TRNC prime minister Ferdi Sabit Soyer says: “The UN solution has an idea for a common national team and a separate one. If we can have a common team that is good, but maybe we follow the
The political situation eased and Ulusoy also went south to play for Salamina but getting round that table was proving difficult as
Around this time, the TRNC started using football to try and establish the idea of
A Northern Cyprus team started playing friendless against other teams shunned by FIFA, such as Lapland, Zanzibar and Gibraltar and between 2005 and 2006 won three tournament, the Peace Cup played in the TRNC, the Wild Cup in Hamburg in 2006 and the eight-team ELF Cup played back at home in 2006.
Finally, a pre-season visit by English football league club
Last September, the KTFF and the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) were invited to FIFA’s headquarters for talks. The KTFF recruited Brussels-based lobbyists Independent Diplomats and the talks have been ongoing ever since. A break-through seemed unlikely as the KTFF refused to merge with the CFA but the recent election of communist president Demetris Christofias, who favours uniting the island, are likely to help.
A key player in the case will be Marios Lafkaritis, who is UEFA’s honorary treasurer and one of two delegates elected specifically onto UEFA’s executive to represent smaller nations along with
For would-be members, trying to break into the FIFA elite involves winning over power brokers such as Lefkaritis or
Koloskov is also on the FIFA executive and a key ally of
The Serbs vehemently dispute Kosovo’s independent status and, while FIFA may laughably insist politics has no place in sport, both Serbia and their backers in Moscow are likely to do whatever they can to deny Kosovo playing international football.
Unfortunately for the Kosovans and the Northern Cypriots, UEFA’s own membership criteria do this easily enough. To be a member of UEFA, potential new members have to be recognised as a country by the UN.
This rule was brought in as the result of an attempt to join UEFA and FIFA in the late 1990s by the
In the 1980s and 1990s, UEFA saw a flood of new entrants as the Soviet Union and
When the semi-autonomous Danish controlled colony of the Faroe Islands joined in 1988,
Overseas clubs used to regularly visit the
This gradually eased over time and Gibraltarian footballers increasingly began playing across the border in
The GFA had not counted on
To prevent this calamity – imagine the Champions League without
All national associations need first to be a member of a regional confederation such as UEFA or
UEFA decided that all new members need to be UN members and this conveniently kept
The GFA appealed the case three times to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) – the game’s ultimate arbiter – before their membership application finally went to a UEFA congress for a vote in January 2007.
Montengro were joyfully waived in but of UEFA’s 52 existing members, only three voted for
GFA president Joe Nunez says: “This is the best example of politics in sport. No-one has ever raised any sporting objections to our application.”
Gibraltar are back at CAS looking for legal expenses but FIFA have already found their own excuse for barring the Rock’s footballers should they manage to elbow their way into UEFA.
FIFA has decreed that as the colony’s only football stadium, the 3,000-seat Victoria Stadium, is on land between the Spanish town of
Bizarrely, the stadium has a FIFA accredited artificial surface that sits on the same strip of land that is also home to the colony’s airport, which last year started receiving international flights from
The football association on the African
This application was rejected and one of the reasons given by FIFA was that teams from
Abdulghang Himin Msoma, chairman of the Zanzibar National Sports Council, said: “We cannot play in a league by ferry, that is a very unfortunate reason. That is not a reason at all.”
Admitting places that are not really countries might seem absurd but over the years, FIFA has admitted a host of places just like that.
Not just the
FIFA’s entry criteria is membership of a regional confederation and the more woolly ‘recognition by the international community’ and this has let in 23 associations that are not members of the United Nations.
FIFA’s six regional confederations also have another half a dozen associate members, such as French Guyana in the CONCACAF region covering North and Central American and the Caribbean, and
That is nearly 30 places playing countries as ‘nations’ when to most people they are anything but. Whether that membership list is ever swelled by the Turkish people of
THE ‘NATIONAL TEAMS’ THAT FIFA FORGOT
Commonwealth of North Mariana Islands – When a US soccer Dad went to work on this isolated group of islands most famous as scene of bitter World War two battles, he tried to find a match for his teenage son and ended up starting a national team
The Channel Islands – Before New Labour came to power, Jersey and Guernsey probably had more autonomy than
The Falkland Islands – Has a four-team league but opposition from
Greenland – Sitting on the top of the world, Greenland is, like the Faroe Islands, part of the
Occitania – A team representing speakers of the medieval romance language, which is still spoken in
The Sami – a team drawn from the Sami tribe of Scandinavia, whose members – more commonly known as Lapps – are scattered across