An alternative World Cup is taking place in London, with Punjab and Tamil Eelam playing
By Barfi Culture Team
7th June 2018

While the world's attention is largely focused on the upcoming World Cup, in a corner of London some teams are already been playing their own international tournament.

From 31st May to 9th June, London is hosting the alternative World Cup, hosted by CONIFA: the Confederation of Independent Football Associations. It is the football federation for associations outside FIFA.

The event is relatively new, having launched just in 2013. They organized their first World Football Cup in June 2014 in Ostersund, Sweden. Their aim is to: "build bridges between people, nations, minorities and isolated regions all over the world through friendship, culture and the joy of playing football."

But its independent status is attracting controversy too.

Some of the teams represent areas that aren't countries and have their own nationalist movements. Like, for example, Tamil Eelam, Punjab and Tibet. And that has made some unhappy.

The Tamil Guardian reported last week that Sri Lanka wrote to CONIFA objecting to the inclusion of Tamil Eelam at the alternative world cup. It said the inclusion of the team "would promote and support divisive, separatist tendencies as well as violence in many countries including Sri Lanka."

The request was ignored.

Barfi Culture spoke to Tamil Eelam's head coach Ragesh Nambiar, who didn't let the letter bother the team. "We are doing our own thing and our aim is to bring the community together through football."

The Tamil Eelam squad consists of Tamils from all over Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the UK) as well as Canada. The team was formed in 2012 and played its first big match at another alternative world cup in 2012 in Kurdistan.

Since then they have been working hard to improve themselves. "Football is big within the Tamil community," Ragesh added. "We have a lot of followers on Facebook, people in the diaspora follow what we do and Tamils in Sri Lanka and India."

They are also one of the founding teams at CONIFA, which is likely why the Sri Lankan government was rebuffed.

The Punjab team, which is still playing, is the No. 1 team according CONIFA's rankings at the beginning of 2018. The final is on Saturday, between Northern Cyprus and Karpatalya (Hungarians in Ukraine).

Tamil Eelam hasn't done that well at the tournament, but they are not fazed. They are happy to be represented.

"We are learning a lot from other people about training, about recruiting and building a team. That's important to us," said Ragesh. They are are already looking to the future.

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