The Separatist’s World Cup

Jun 23, 2008

Last month, a crowd thronged Milan's Arena Civica to catch an unusual match. Anthems filled the air and flags fluttered from the stands: white with a green star for the home team; for the visitors, a sun radiating from behind the Himalayas. The teams were fierce rivals: Padania versus Tibet.

Welcome to football for nation-state wanna-bes. Aspiring separatist regions no longer have to rue their exclusion from nation-biased tourneys like the World Cup and Euro2008. Now, the NF Board—a league for "unrecognized nations" that includes members like Zanzibar and Wallonia—has organized its own championship, the Viva World Cup. Kicking off during the second week of July in Gallivare (that's Swedish Lappland to you), it features showdowns between such autonomist hopefuls as the aforementioned Padania (northern Italy), Kurdistan and Provence. Political agitating is discouraged—but since football fans have been known to talk trash during heated matches, insults about a rival's oppressor nation could very well make an appearance ("Istanbul's your daddy"). The first game, between Samiland and Kurdistan, takes place on July 7.