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Exile Tibet team sets off for anti-FIFA World Cup tournament in London

His Holiness the Dalai Lama talking to the members of the Tibetan National Football Team. (Photo courtesy: TIBET.NET)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama talking to the members of the Tibetan National Football Team. (Photo courtesy: TIBET.NET)

(TibetanReview.net, May20, 2018) – A Tibetan national team made up of exile Tibetans is among 16 shortlisted teams taking part in the CONIFA World Cup tournament in London. The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) has 47 members from around the world and the 16 best teams qualified for the World Cup.

They are teams not recognized by the world’s football governing body FIFA and include teams such as Abkhazia, Matabeleland, Northern Cyprus, Tamil Eelam, and Panjab as well, noted sputniknews.com May 19.

They are described as the world’s underdogs, nations and regions which for various reasons struggle to play on the world stage.

The Tibetan team is selected by Dharamshala-based Tibetan National Sports Association which conducts an annual Gyalyum Chenmo Memorial Gold Cup tournament among exile Tibetan teams. Its board is chaired by the health minister of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). The team called on the Dalai Lama on May 18 and its participation was announced by the CTA President Lobsang Sangay at a press conference on the same day. It left for London the next day.

CONIFA’s members vary from internationally recognized countries like Tuvalu and Kiribati, both of whom are trying to win formal accreditation by FIFA, to nations and regions such as Tibet which do not have diplomatic recognition. Tamil Eelam was militarily defeated by the Sri Lankan army in 2009 and Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey.

“There are 10 criteria (for admitting teams to the tournament) and ultimately we are a democracy and the ruling committee makes recommendations for who should be a member,” CONIFA spokesman Kieran Pender was quoted as saying.

This year’s tournament is being hosted by Barawa, a region of Somalia. Because so many Somalis from that area live in London, they are hosting it in Britain, the report said.

The tournament is being sponsored by bookmakers Paddy Power and begins on May 31.

Mr Pender has further explained: “CONIFA is politically neutral. We don’t take a position on the standing of our members and they are not allowed to make overt political displays at matches. It’s all about letting people play football who are excluded because of history and recent events.”

He has also said: “Our ethos is football for all. It’s the antithesis of FIFA.”

This year’s FIFA World Cup tournament will kick off in Russia on Jun 14.

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