ConIFA World Football Cup: In Conversation with Kabylia Manager Lyes Immemai
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“To be honest, it is the first time we are here to participate in the ConIFA World Cup, so it’s already something big. We are not happy
The Kabylia team got a real baptism of fire with an 8-0 defeat to Panjab in the opening match, a battling 0-0 draw with United Koreans in Japan meant they were not mathematically eliminated before their final Group D with Western Armenia, however, they were in need of a 14 goal swing due to their poor goal difference. Despite having good moments, the opposition stormed to a four-goal win. The game was noted for passionate and unwavering support from the Kabylia fans.
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Increasing opposition lead to the 2001 formation of the Movement for Autonomy in Kayblia (MAK) and since 2011, they have campaigned for independence. Kabylia players have been under scrutiny from the government, FA President Aksel Bellabacci was arrested and detained for 15 hours and several players reported their families had been threatened and forced to sign sworn statements they were not and never will be members of MAK.
“I was arrested, they were blackmailing the players and their families, we have many players who didn’t come because of those threats. The Algerian government still tries to block us and keep everything inside,” explains Immemai.
“They are scared of Kabylian independence," he says before insisting: "We are not scared, we are not afraid of them."
Immemai had hoped the tournament would also give exposure to the Kabylian team and people to highlight this issue: “The target is the same for every country," he says before smiling and adding "to win the competition. We also wanted to show the world that we are a different nation, we are
Since their group stage elimination, Kayblia
Immemai remains hopeful though admits beating the pre-tournament
After the tournament is completed, Immemai is not sure what the future holds: "The Kabylia team is not mine, it is for Kabylia, so it's not for me to decide", he insists but notes "I left everything to come here", so he is keen to continue to be involved in this type of project.
Quite simply the Kabylia team would not exist without ConIFA, he believes: “With whom you will play? for what reason you will contact the players?”
As for the organisation itself and the tournament itself, Immemai has nothing but positive words to say, having thoroughly enjoyed the tournament: “Sure, 100%, very nice people, very nice countries, very nice atmosphere."
He believes ConIFA is full of "very nice people, very professional people, they are just perfect. People are saying we are improving everything, we are doing it better and better but they are already doing good things and they are amazing.”