Throughout the years, many footballers had the privilege to represent their nations in the World Cup. Unfortunately, this isn’t a privilege that every country is able to enjoy. Across the globe there are many nations that aren’t officially recognized as a country. To give these nations and indigenous peoples a chance to compete, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) organizes a World Cup to bring various cultural groups closer together.
The organizer, Jeroen Zandberg, explains that the UNPO ‘offers unrecognized nations a platform to gain more recognition for their rights and to strengthen their identity.’ The peaceful competition that was hosted on 17 June 2017 in the multicultural city of The Hague, the Netherlands, welcomed eight teams from disputed territories and historical regions. Among the candidates were also local players that represented Kurdistan and the Progressive Liberal Democratic Party, a Dutch political party. The team from West Papua had several Papuan players and was supplemented with players from different cultures that wanted to show their support for the West Papua cause. Other teams came from further away, like the team from the Southern Cameroons. The Chamerian team and their supporters came all the way from Albania to compete for the main prize.
Festim Lato, coach of the Chameria team, is proud that UNPO asked them to join the world Cup; “We do everything that’s in the interest of our country.” Chameria, which is situated in the north of Greece, has a long and dark history dating back to the Second World War. In 1945, the residents had to flee to Albania to escape genocide that was being carried out by Greek authorities. “Chameria is currently cooperating with the EU, the United States and the ICC to prosecute Greece for committing crimes against humanity.”
Although Chameria is participating for the first time, other nations have joined the battle for the UNPO World Cup previously. Southern Cameroons is excited to join the friendly competition for the third time, Ndeh Tangic David, Chairperson of Southern Cameroons Belgium explains: “Last year, we ended as the runner up but unfortunately we lost the finals.” Ndeh is very grateful that UNPO gives them the opportunity to meet with other Micronations and indigenous peoples. “We had the chance to meet a lot of different cultures today, we never met with West Papua and that’s an addition to our knowledge.”
Since October 2016, many citizens of Southern Cameroons have been murdered, arrested and imprisoned by the French majority in their mission to restore their independence. Ndeh wants to use this opportunity to explain their situation to other participants because they share the same problems and goals. “We’re now heading towards a warlike situation, this is the time to address the issue.”
Football is very popular in Southern Cameroons, so it didn’t took much effort to form a team for the UNPO World Cup. Ndeh thinks it’s very unfortunate that his nation isn’t able to join the National team because they require you to speak French. “After restoration of our team, we will create our own football federation which allows everyone to join without discrimination.”
Footballer Ibrahim Kandeke from the Umubano team is enjoying the sun while getting some rest in between the games. “The match against West Papua was really exciting! There were many opportunities created for us, but unfortunately, West Papua still won 3-2. We were technically the better team but maybe we were too careless with our African ‘we’ll be fine’ mentality.” Just like Southern Cameroons, football is immensely popular in Buriundi, almost everybody watches the games and most of them also play at local clubs.
West Papua had a harder time finding footballers, but the situation was immediately resolved as local footballers showed their support by joining the West Papua team. It is the first time West Papua is participating in the UNPO Cup and coach Simon Sapioper is very proud of his multi-cultural team.
Simon is a member of the West Papua government but his diplomatic efforts forced him to live in exile. The politician and activist had to flee his country in 1984 and ended up in a refugee camp in Papua New Guinea. Fortunately enough, Simon was lucky to be able to flee to the Netherlands in 1991 where he currently still holds a refugee status. Simon really loves the UNPO world Cup because it’s excellent for networking. West Papua already has very good relations with other UNPO members and this is a really good opportunity to expand them.
West Papua ended up in third place of the UNPO World Cup. Team leader Lionel Gatho explains that they could have done better: “our keeper made a mistake, he kicked the ball poorly and it ended up with our opponent. They made use of the situation and scored.” Although Lionels team lost, he is still really happy that he joined the UNPO cup. “I got a really good impression, it’s arranged very well and I had a blast!”
Chameria and Umubano battled against each other in a nerve wrecking final, but Shaqir Haruni of Chameria was able to break the tie and won the championship with a 3-2 victory. Shaqir said of the result “Our opponent was physically very strong but still we won. I’m tired but also extremely happy that we won the cup!” Straight after the victory, Chameria is already certain that they will join the UNPO Cup again next year, and their team will even be stronger.
Article written by Liberland Press contributor Hermina