Iraqi Kurdish team beats North Cyprus, claiming 'unrecognized' world cup
While all eyes in the football world are on the European Football Championships in Poland and Ukraine, a world cup silently found its new owner over the weekend.
The national team of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, which played under the name “Kurdistan,” beat Northern Cyprus, or Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) as it was named in the tournament, 2-1 late June 9 to claim the trophy at the fifth edition of VIVA World Cup.
The VIVA World Cup brings together football associations unaffiliated with world football’s governing
body FIFA, which does not accept the federations of countries that are not internationally recognized as members. The TRNC, established in 1983 following a Turkish military intervention on the island in 1974, is recognized only by Turkey, while “Kurdistan” has yet to declare independence from Iraq.
The participants of the 2012 VIVA World Cup also included “national teams” from Zanzibar, Darfur, Occitania and Provence.
The final game played in Franso Hariri Stadium in the northern Iraqi province of Arbil’s was more than just a football match, according to Arbil Governor Nawzad Hadi.
“The important thing is that the game is in Kurdistan,” Hadi told Rudaw news agency during the game’s halftime. “It’s the first time we’ve received international teams here. We are happy because we are part of Iraq, but at the same time you can see the football is going well, with the people, the security, and the media – you can see how Kurdistan has developed; it’s a normal place like everywhere else.”
Northern Cyprus on int’l stage
The tournament is also a rare opportunity for Northern Cyprus to be able to play at the international level.
“Football has no boundaries, football should not be political,” Turkish Consul General to Erbil Aydın Selcen, who also watched the final game, was quoted as saying by Rudaw. “[But] the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is denied the right to play any games outside their country; so it’s a good opportunity for them.”
That is precisely the idea behind the VIVA event, according to Christian Michels, President and Founding Member of the Nouvelle Federation Board, which organizes the biennial VIVA World Cup.
“VIVA is for nations, territories, peoples, islands – it’s open to all these territories which are not able to play in FIFA. [It’s driven by] passion, passion for football – to allow these people to play at the international level.”
Northern Iraq sees the tournament as an opportunity to cement its place in the football world. “This could be the first step towards achieving Kurdistan membership in FIFA,” Safin Kanebi, head of the Kurdistan Football Federation (KFF), told Rudaw.