In 2017 the football team from Padania won the second CONIFA European cup but will they be able to defend their title this year?
For some people the dates from June 1st to June 9th are already marked red in their calendars: It is then time for the CONIFA European Football cup. And while the Italian national football team could not reach any fame in the recent FIFA world cup or the UEFA European Championship, the Northern Italian region Padania has the chance to bring the title back to Italy in 2019.
The CONIFA European cup does not ring a bell in your head and you have never heard of Padania before? In short: The CONIFA European Football cup is the antithesis to the UEFA European Championship run by the FIFA. CONIFA is short for â€œthe Confederation of Independent Football Associationsâ€ and defines itself as an independent association that organises international football tournaments and competitions. The goal of CONIFA is to bring football to forgotten nations, oppressed minorities and ethnic groups that are not recognised by the FIFA. Their events are organised completely by volunteers and most of their member teams rely on crowdfunding and donations for their equipment. Events like the Conifa World Cup 2019 are financed by sponsors who choose to support this underdog movement that is getting bigger each year. For this year’s cup the main sponsor was announced in February.
In 2019 the CONIFA European Football cup will be held in three cities in the Republic of Artsakh, a de-facto independent country in the South Caucasus, formerly known as Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The cup will take place for the third time and experienced growing interest in its teams each year. This year twelve teams from regions all over Europe will compete in the tournament in June. Some of the teams are already known as favourites while others will participate for the first time. The current champion of the CONIFA European Football cup is Padania, a team from the Po Valley region in Italy. The team won the last CONIFA European Football cup that was hosted in Northern Cyprus in 2017.
Has Padania chances to win the title again? Definitely. In the CONIFA world cup that took place in London in 2018 Padania made it to the semi-finals. There the team was beaten by Northern Cyprus but the Padanians managed to win the third-place play-off and became third place in the end. Padania was also doing well in another event that was hosted by the CONIFA: In January the regional football team participated in the first CONIFA No Limits Euro Cup which was the first ever tournament for disabled footballers and took place in Monaco. Out of four teams Padania finished in second place on six points only beaten by Monaco which scored nine points.
The football team of Padania exists since 1998 and participated in numerous alternative tournaments since then, such as the VIVA world cup and the CONIFA world cup. They are not part of the UEFA or the Italian Football Federation but their most famous player is Enoch Balotelli, who is the brother of Mario, that plays for the Italian National football team.
At the beginning of June we will find out if Padania will manage to win the tournament again or if another team can take the title home. The two teams that make it to the finals of the European Football cup will automatically receive a ticket to the CONIFA world cup that will be held in 2020 in Somaliland, a region in Somalia. And whoever will be the next champion of the CONIFA European cup – one thing can be expected from the tournament for sure: Exciting and fun matches that combine cultural diversity as well as the love for football.