Sports
Via CONIFA

At This World Cup, Players Risk Imprisonment to Compete

What you need to know about the CONIFA World Cup, the football tournament for breakaway nations.

The ConIFA World Cup, the global football tournament for unrecognized nations, and football associations not affiliated to FIFA, is about to begin its third edition. The championship will kickoff on 31 May in Sutton, Greater London, where the Barawa FA team will act as host.

Barawa FA, named after the port city of Barawa in southern Somalia, represents the Tunni and Bravanese people who live there, but it also represents the wider Somali diaspora in the United Kingdom. So, even though the tournament will be played in England, this will be the most African ConIFA competition to date, with not only an African member hosting and heading the organizing committee, but with two other African teams taking part in the competition: Matabeleland and Kabylia.

This will be the largest edition of the ConIFA World Cup so far, with 16 teams playing in 10 stadiums—seven in Greater London, two in Berkshire and one in Essex. In contrast, the previous edition, held in Abkhazia—a separatist region of Georgia—in 2016, featured 12 teams in two stadiums; while the inaugural edition, held in Lapland—a region encompassing parts of northern Sweden, northern Norway, northern Finland and north-western Russia inhabited by the Sami people—in 2014, only featured one stadium and 12 teams. It will also feature the largest number of African teams so far, as only two participated in 2014 (Darfur and Zanzibar) and 2016 (Somaliland and Chagos Islands).

The tournament has also raised its profile. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power announced it will be sponsoring the tournament, probably seizing the opportunity to take bets on the tournament, which will occur between the end of national European leagues and the beginning of the FIFA World Cup in mid-June.


ConIFA also secured Mark Clattenburg, who served as a referee in the English Premier League for over a decade, as main referee. Clattenburg will oversee the inaugural game (between Ellan Vannin, the team representing the Isle of Man, and Cascadia, the team representing the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon and the Canadian Province of British Columbia), and the final game, to be played on 9 June in Enfield.

Clattenburg and the other 24 referees in the tournament will also debut a green card sponsored by Paddy Power. This card will be shown to players who dive or who protest the referees' decisions, and who will have to be substituted immediately.

But who are the African teams in the tournament and how did they get here? Learn more about them below.

Barawa

Barawa, as mentioned, are a Somali team based in London, and their players come mostly from the semi-professional non-league divisions in the English football pyramid. However, they will be fielding Kingsley Eshun and and Ode Alfa, both of which play for Queens Park Rangers' – a Championship team – youth sides, as well as Aryan Tajbakhsh, who plays for League Two side Crawley Town.

The team joined ConIFA in June 2016, and have never played in a ConIFA competition, though they did play in the World Unity Cup in Sutton that same year, a competition in which Tamil Eelam – the team representing the separatist Tamil region of Sri Lanka – qualified for this year's World Cup.

But Barawa didn't have to worry about qualifying matches for long. They were selected hosts in June 2017 and qualified automatically for the 2018 World Cup, despite being ranked 11th in ConIFA standings, one of the lowest of all members.

In the World Cup, Barawa will face Ellan Vannin, Tamil Eelam and Cascadia in Group A.

Sampi vs. SomalilandPhoto by Kieran Pender

Matabeleland

Matabeleland is a region in southern and south-western Zimbabwe inhabited mostly by the Northern Ndebele people. Matabeleland was the stage of a series of massacres –– known as Gukurahundi –– committed in the 1980s by the Zimbabwean National Army, during the government of former president Robert Mugabe, who is part of the Shona majority. Even now, there is an independent movement in Matabeleland lead by the Matabeleland Freedom Army.

However, the Matabeleland Football Confederacy was created by the Save Matabeleland Coalition with the official purpose of promoting soccer in the region as a way to foster development, and to give local kids a sense of identity and purpose.

Matabeleland joined ConIFA in 2016 and their team is made up mostly of local kids who participate in Save Matabeleland Coalition programs. They are coached by Englishman Justin Walley, and both Bruce Grobbelaar –– who played for the Zimbabwe national team and Liverpool FC –– and Matt Perrella –– a professional U.S. goalkeeper –– will work as goalkeeper coaches. However, due to political concerns, they did not announce their roster publicly.

They qualified to the 2018 World Cup after playing many regional friendlies, and then being selected by ConIFA to participate in the competition But they ran into finance financial problems. They sought $35,000 to help pay for visas and airfares through various crowdfunding efforts, which included a contest, sponsored by Paddy Power, to design Matabeleland's kits.

However, they have yet to play their first official international game within ConIFA. That will change in later this month when they face Padania –– a team representing a separatist region in northern Italy ––, Székely Land –– a team representing the Hungarian diaspora in Romania, and Tuvalu –– the island nation that is part of the UN, but has not been admitted as a FIFA member due to their lack of facilities –– in Group C.

Sampi vs. SomalilandKieran Pender

Kabylia

The Kabylia football team represents the Kabyle people, a Berber ethnic group who inhabit northern Algeria. Since the Algerian independence from France in the 1960s, the region of Kabylia has been fighting for greater recognition, as many there feel that the new nation has tried to "Arabize" them. For example, Algeria only recognized Berber languages as official in 2016.

Because of this, many Kabyle emigrated to other countries and some famous French footballers are of Kabyle descent, most notably Zinedine Zidane, Samir Nasri and Karim Benzema. Zidane has even had to correct the record in some interviews, noting that he did not grow up speaking Arabic in his Algerian household in Marseille, as some interviewers assumed, but Kabyle.

In 2001, the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK) was founded by folk singer Ferhat Mehenni as a non-violent movement seeking to obtain self-government rule for Kabylia. MAK has endorsed the Kabylia football team, which joined ConIFA barely last year and, like Matabeleland, qualified after playing various regional friendlies.

However, the scene in Kabylia was not as celebratory as in Matabeleland. According to the Kabylia-based news agency Siwel, after qualification, the Kabylia manager Alex Bellabacci was arrested by the Algerian authorities and held for questioning.

Because of the animosity of the Algerian authorities towards the Kabylia team, is hard to get info on who their players will be –– like Matabeleland, they did not announce their squad publicly. However, it is expected that they will bring a mix of local players, and players from the diaspora.

In any case, they will be part of Group D, where they will square off against Panjab –– a team representing the Punjabi diaspora in the United Kingdom ––, United Koreans in Japan –– a team comprised of both people of North Korean and South Korean descent living in Japan –– and Western Armenia –– a team representing Armenians living in what is officially recognized as the eastern part of Turkey.

Somaliland goalkeeper. Photo by Kieran Pender

Featured
Still from "Kasala!"

Meet The Nigerian New Wave Director Behind the Film 'Kasala!'

One of Naija cinema's new wave, Ema Edosio talks about what it took to film her exciting new film in the streets of Lagos.

Ema Edosio is the director of "Kasala", a comedy set in present day Lagos and centers on the lives of four young men who go on a joyride to a party in a Honda Accord one of them has taken from his boss Taju without permission. Their evening is ruined when one of them crashes Taju's Honda breaking the windscreen and denting the car's body. With just four hours before Taju returns home, all four boys hustle around Lagos to raise money for the car repair.

Taju, who is a struggling butcher, is faced with a big problem of his own: his debtor has just given him an ultimatum to pay back money he's long owed. Bitter and frustrated, Taju's retribution will be double-fold, if he returns home to find his Honda is damaged. The four friends do not need more another reason to expect the worse from Taju if they're not able to fix his Honda before gets home in the next four hours.

"Kasala" is a vivid portrayal of contemporary Lagos and a riotous combination of physical comedy, inventive turns of phrases combined with fluid camera work and committed performances from some of the young and bright African acting talents.

Written by Temi Sodipo and directed by Ema Edosio—who is also the cinematographer and editor—"Kasala" was chosen for the closing gala of the 2018 edition of Film Africa in London this November, out of a total of 39 films from 15 countries.

Edosio flew into London for the film's UK premier at the Rich Mix cinema to a largely pan-African crowd who lapped up the rollicking comedy. Ahead of her trip to the UK, Okay Africa spoke to Edosio about her debut feature, the joys and challenges of shooting on location in Lagos and the rise of Nigeria's so called "Naija New Wave" cinema.

Photo courtesy of Ema Edosio


The fast pace and energy in Kasala is constant all through the film. Was this a deliberate injection or did it come as a result of the writing?

I worked as a video journalist for the BBC and I would go into the streets of Lagos to film, and I would see everything that made Lagos what it is: the traffic, the smell, the dirt, the vibe, the energy, the people. And I wanted to make a story that is authentic and that is the reason why I decided to make Kasala this way.

All the four friends and main characters jell naturally it would seem. How did you get them to work well together?

When I conceived of the film, I knew that I didn't want to work with any "known" faces. I knew that I wanted unknown actors. So I put out an audition call and these boys worked into the room and I told them to read together. And immediately it was like magic.

Why do you think they're largely unknown to the majority of Nigerian movie watching audience?

I think one of the reasons is there's not a lot of movies written about young people. Most of the scripts are for a certain kind of male character: the superhero who goes to save the damsel in distress, and the hunk and a lot of roles are not written for these amazing actors and that's why they're largely unknown.

Tomiwa Tegbe who plays "Effiong" is a good comic actor and has been in "On The Real (Ebony Life TV)" and "Shuga (MTV)". What does Kasala bring out in Tomiwa Tegbe that these other directors and film material that do not?

The thing that made Tomiwa Tegbe and the rest stand out in Kasala is that I gave them freedom to act and I wasn't micromanaging them. They became very comfortable in order to do their best to the film.

The cast as a whole is largely new and young with Jide Kosoko easily the most experienced. Why did you cast him for the role and not yet another "unknown" face?

The reason is I couldn't afford to hire known faces to work in the film and I honestly didn't have the budget. I [also] wanted to bring in a sense of familiarity and that is why I got Jide Kosoko. Even though they're guys are unknown, and they're are fantastic "here is someone you know who is in this movie playing with these amazing actors" which is why I worked with Jide Kosoko.

The different locations in the film are those of back corners, mechanic garages, meat market, communal flats most of which have the red and brown of rust and decay gives the cinematography a visual harmony. How much attention did you give to finding the right locations?

I think I made Kasala with a vengeance. I've had the privilege to work with Ebonylife tv which was beautiful but Kasala kept pulling me in: the people I met in the streets, the things I'd done on the streets of Lagos, the visual aesthetic kept pulling and I decided to make that. I wanted to see Lagos, I wanted to see barbwires. I wanted to see gutters, I wanted to see the people. I knew that the location was a character on its own. And I wanted to be able to find the right location that would be able to represent that boys and the lives they live in Lagos. I'm forever grateful for the people there who let us film there.

Your camera adopts the often frenetic pace of the film and is rarely still for long. Why this visual approach?

I'm very influenced by Guy Ritchie, Edgar Wright, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. And I would always say to myself that "these characters in their films can be Nigerians". I think that the camera should be fluid, breathe, move with the audience showing us "oh yeah this is a wide, oh yeah this is a close up". My influence by these directors was what I put into Kasala. And this is what made the film dynamic.

Are there any interesting, unplanned events during shooting which you could share with our readers?

Shooting in Lagos is one of the hardest thing to do. You have these agberos [louts] who come to you and literally want to take your equipment. I went with a very small crew and I'm very petite and they would see me and say "who is this small girl? She doesn't have money. Leave her alone, let her shoot". I started bringing them into the film to act and it was very beautiful seeing them react to it. One of the most interesting things is the children in the estates [on location] who act in the film, the joy and the playfulness. In some ways we brought back some joy and some fun into the neighbourhood.


Still from "Kasala!"

Did you worry much about what may be lost to foreign audiences who may not be clued up the pidgin English and "Nigerianisms" used in the film?

You can't come to Lagos and make a film about the slum in English. I felt like the pidgin English was as important as the location. My mind was not about where the foreign audience would accept it or whatever. My mind was "how do I make a film that is authentic to Nigeria? How do I make a film that would show of Lagos?" It would do no justice to use English.

Who are the other key players in Nigeria's "nu wave" film and tv you would like to highlight?

When you talk about new wave key players you're talking about Abba Makama whose film "Green White Green" inspired me to make "Kasala". CJ SeriObasi, ImoEmoren, Jade Sholat Siberi, Kemi Adetiba. So many new directors are springing out nollywood. And they're new directors making amazing stuff. I'm really really excited about the future.

How did you raise the funding needed to make "Kasala"?

When I wanted to make Kasala, it was not the kind of story people would fund. I decided in order to bring this story to live, to use the skills I'd gained over the years—to produce, direct, shoot and edit. Not because I wanted to be in control, because I didn't have the budget. That is the sport of new director coming in now. We're fighting against all odds and it is now beginning to be clear that it's way beyond nollywood. Kasala has been to over 20 international festivals and counting. And there an audience for our films, there's an audience for our voices.

What are you expectations for it at the festival?

I really don't know what to expect. I just hope that they love the film. For the Nigerians in the diaspora,I hope that it brings back memories of Lagos. For black people I hope it gives them a sense of how we are back home to help them connect with us as Africans. For the foreign audience I hope that they see a Nigeria of passion, of community, of tenacity, of brotherhood of love.

"Kasala" will be released worldwide on December 7th

popular

Indomie: Unpacking a Nigerian Tradition

What does Nigeria's way of preparing this beloved brand of instant noodles say about the country as a whole?

Before I came to Lagos in September to begin a collaborative performance project, I imagined all the ways the place would challenge all I had read and heard about it, and all the ways it might remind me of my home, Trinidad and Tobago. Of all the kernels of similarities I've encountered so far, Indomie is perhaps the most intriguing.

Indomie, a brand of instant noodles originating in Indonesia, has become the household name for all instant ramen noodles in Nigeria.

As a child, I would make Top Ramen, but ours was far less intentionally adorned. I had never seen anyone add anything but Golden Ray. I would try to be fancy with my own and add eggs, but they never quite attained Naruto ramen standards.

Indomie was my first meal in Nigeria. I had arrived in Lagos about two hours earlier. In those two hours I had seen something of the character of the city. In the midst of the clouds of dust and engine exhaust fumes I saw a woman almost fall out the car she was getting into, I saw men sitting atop a truck, like wrinkles in the night sky fabric, I saw selling, so much selling and buying and haggling. It seemed to me that everything was happening here.

Keep reading... Show less
Audio

Fela Kuti's 'Zombie' Is Coming Out On Limited Edition 8-Track

"Zombie" and "Mr. Follow Follow" are available in the nostalgic 8-track cartridge.

"Zombie," Fela Kuti's 1976 protest anthem and scathing attack on the Nigerian military, is getting an 8-track re-release.

Knitting Factory Records, Kalakuta Sunrise and Partisan Records have made 300 limited editions copies of Zombie/Mr. Follow Follow which you can pre-order now ahead of its December 7 release.

Fela Kuti's classic song uses zombies as a metaphor for soldiers mindlessly following orders. The song is thought to have triggered the Nigerian government's horrific assault on the Kalakuta Republic, in which the compound burned to the ground, Fela was brutally beaten and his mother, Nigerian feminist icon Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, was murdered.

You can pre-order Zombie/Mister Follow Follow on 8-track now and read more about each song from Mabinuori Kayode Idowu's text accompanying the release below.

Purchase Fela Kuti's Zombie/Mr Follow Follow on 8-Track

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.