What do Northern Cyprus, Tibet, Yorkshire, and now Cornwall, all have in common?

Written by Samuel Turner |

What do Northern Cyprus, Tibet, Yorkshire, and now Cornwall, all have in common?

They are all members of CONIFA, an international football governing body.

CONIFA stands for the ‘Confederation of Independent Football Associations’. Like FIFA they organise football tournaments for their members, have a ranking system for their members, and provide rules and regulations for matches between their members. However, unlike FIFA whose members are made up of nations recognised by the UN or nations who have strong sovereignty, CONIFA’s members are made up of nations not fully recognized by the UN, minority groups, isolated dependencies and cultural regions.

As of November 2018, ‘Kernow’ otherwise known in English as Cornwall became one of CONIFA’s newest member. So, yes, that is right, Cornwall will be playing international football in the near future, giving the people of Cornwall and us as students a chance to support Cornwall on an international sporting stage, which is a very exciting prospect. Cornwall is already the reserve team for the next CONIFA European Football Cup this year held in Artsakh a republic with limited sovereignty recognition in the South Caucasus, and the ultimate goal is to reach the CONIFA World Cup in 2020 held in Somaliland in the east of Africa.

Cornwall joining CONIFA raises two interesting questions: How is Cornwall eligible for CONIFA? And how could Cornwall’s CONIFA membership effect Cornish Football?

How is Cornwall eligible for CONIFA?

In technical terms Cornwall was eligible to become a member of CONIFA through the fact it represents a minority language, that minority language being Cornish.

But this technical reasoning ignores the more nuanced factors which have gone towards Cornwall being accepted into CONIFA: Cornwall is a region with its own independent and unique history, from methodism to mining, a region with its own identity, from the St Piran’s Flag to the Pasty, a region recognized as a minority group by the EU, and a region home to a group of people who have a history of being a conquered people, those are the real reasons why Cornwall has gained membership into CONIFA.

How could Cornwall’s CONIFA membership effect football in Cornwall?

Though Cornwall has a long history with football, with Cornish miners giving football to Mexico in the 19th century – football is not the main sport in Cornwall with rugby union taking that crown, there is a shortage of adequate football facilities in Cornwall, and there are no Cornish professional football teams. So how could CONIFA membership effect football in Cornwall?

The Kernow team will need a stadium to play at, and currently there is no suitable stadium to play at in Cornwall. Thus, this could speed up the development and progress of the Stadium for Cornwall project as it provides another incentive to build the stadium. This would be great for football in Cornwall as not only would it bring top level football facilities, but also it would create a natural home for football in Cornwall.

As the saying goes success breeds success, so if Cornwall can experience even the slightest bit of success as a member of CONIFA it might create a snowball effect for Cornish football. Success can improve the importance of the beautiful game in Cornwall, which in turn could highlight to the relevant organisations that there is a real want for new accessible training facilities in Cornwall.

Moreover, even if there is not much success the mere chance to support Cornwall on the international stage might convert non-football fans to love the football and increase its popularity in Cornwall which of course can only be a good thing specially for the football clubs in Cornwall which are some what held back by low attendances.  

With Cornwall playing international football, Cornish talent may well have the opportunity to play football at a higher level and partake in international competitions, which will not only provide the players with vital experience, but it may well become a viewing platform for Cornish talent to be scouted by bigger clubs with access to better facilities which would improve development of Cornish footballers.

The overall significance

Cornwall’s membership of CONIFA is significant as not only could improve football in Cornwall through increasing the sport’s popularity in the county and increasing the development opportunities for Cornish footballers, but it also represents a monumental moment in Cornish history as Cornwall can now be represented on the international stage.

Though its only in football, football is a powerful sport, a sport that can strengthen Cornwall’s already strong, regional identity, pride, and international reputation. So, watch this space…

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