Karpatalja Edges Northern Cyprus In Penalties To Claim First World Cup Title (Seriously)

In the third edition of the Conifa World Cup, a team comprised of the Hungarian minority population along the western Ukrainian border won it all.

Politics and sports, particularly on the international stage, often intersect. Their connection is amplified during the ConIFA World Cup.

Held every other year since 2014, the ConIFA World Cup gives teams comprised of stateless peoples, ethnic minorities and sub-national entities the opportunity to compete at an international level.

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ConIFA stands for Confederation of Independent Football Associations. If controversies and political drama surrounding FIFA don't satisfy your appetite, then the ConIFA World Cup will do the trick. The challenges of navigating the visa application process and fundraising for travel expenses are compounded by local authorities often wanting to quell any such efforts.

Nonetheless, 16 teams made their way to London a few weeks ago and competed in the third ConIFA World Cup. Barawa, a team representing the Somali diaspora in England, hosted the event. Although Barawa is named after a port town in Somalia, it was considered the host by virtue of leading the tournament's organizing committee.

Barawa bowed out in the quarterfinals 8-0 to Northern Cyprus, a team representing the northeastern region of Cyprus. Turkey is the only country to recognize Northern Cyprus as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, while the rest of the world views the region as a part of the republic of Cyprus. 

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Ineligible to play in FIFA competitions, Northern Cyprus has had a strong showing in each of the last two ConIFA World Cups, finishing third in 2016 and second this year.

Kartapalja outlasted Northern Cyprus in the final to win its first ConIFA World Cup title. The Kartapalja team is made up of ethnic Hungarians living mostly in southwestern Ukraine.

A different team of ethnic Hungarians, Szekely Land, finished in fourth. Players on Szekely Land come from the counties of Hargitha, Covasna and Mures in central Romania.

Keeping track of ConIFA World Cup teams and their territories is a dizzying effort. It's clear the political issues surrounding ConIFA World Cup teams are complicated and often contentious. There are perhaps no players more appreciative of the simplicity of the beautiful game.

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