ConIFA World Football Cup: Talking points from the Pre-Final Press Conference
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“I think it’s fantastic”, he began before noting the support, “has past our expectations, and they’ve played a major part in us getting to the final, yesterday you saw 2-1 down with the support behind us, they pushed us onto the win. The final 15 minutes, they helped us get over the line.”
Kamali agreed, pointing out the political isolation of Northern Cyprus makes it very rare for the players and the team to travel abroad to play football: “It helped us feel like we are playing at home. If sometimes we need something, they make things easy for us, especially at the games supporting us, so it’s very important for the players since we’re abroad, that we’re not used to playing abroad very much..."
Kamali then corrected himself by adding "Not much, none!"
Indeed as a side, they were not able to play preparation matches with the tournament being an example of the team being dropped into the deep end: "Before we came here, we didn’t play any preparation matches," explains Kamali, "The first preparation match was the first game in the group against Karpatalja, the second preparation game was against Tibet and the fourth was against Padania. Every day we are getting better.”
The Hungarians have too enjoyed lots of local support from the Hungarian community. Wenczel pointed out there was little history between the two Hungarian teams, Karpatalja and Szekely Land, as they've only played twice. It is expected that Szekely Land fans will stay after the third-place play-off to support the compatriots.
The political situation of Northern Cyprus
Northern Cyprus is politically embargoed as it was created after a Turkish invasion following a Greek-backed military coup. Greek Cypriots view Northern Cyprus as territory that is illegally occupied and there are grievances over expulsions and evictions. Currently, only Turkey
When asked if there was opposition to his team's involvement, Kamali responded: “Of course, that's why we are here!”
A Greek Cypriot community
Kamali insisted politics was a separate issue to his team: “In North Cyprus, the people love football. We have a lot of kids and young people joining the teams and playing the games. Especially in this century, you can’t tell young people they cannot play due to politics, with the internet and everything they can easily access, are you going to tell a 12, 15-year-old boy 'you can’t play football'?"
“We don’t care about the politics, we want to play football. That’s why we are here.”
The quality of teams
Naturally, the questions moved to the quality of
The consensus was the quality on offer was quite high.
Indeed, this tournament has bought up many surprises. As well as finalists Karpatalja not actually originally qualifying,
A lot of discussion surrounding the tournament has regarded attendances, though Watson has no concrete figures: “The nature of non-league football in this country is they don’t tend to keep the most precise records. We will get more precise statistics at the end."
The average he explained has been around 250, with a range of between 65 and 1,200.
"Which I think is more than we have anticipated in advance. That is the nature of the games which are
1,300 tickets have already been sold for the final, with the same figure expected on the day. From an
ConIFA is still, of course, a small organisation, with just around 20 volunteers, given the circumstances and the logistical demands of organising over 40 matches in 10 days at several different grounds, Watson believes the organisation should be happy even though it is still important to evaluate: “Many of us were doing this for this first time. On the whole, I’m pretty proud of the way that we’ve managed it, given we have such a tiny team."
He then adds, jokingly: "You know, teams have turned up, we’ve usually had three match balls!”