October 25 – FIFA is not the only football body to face problems with a flooded pitch. But in India FIFA could switch venue and city for its U17 World Cup semi-final between Brazil and England. In Kiribati they don’t have that luxury.The picture shows a local football match played at the main stadium in Bairiki, South Tarawa, on a flooded pitch.
Kiribati, comprised of 33 islands in the Pacific Ocean and with a population of 100,000, is one of the most isolated countries in the world and one of the most threatened by climate change.
Rising ocean waters are threatening to shrink Kiribati’s land area, destroy its crop-growing lands, displace its people and even ruin its football pitches.
The plight of the Kiribati islands is outlined in an excellent Guardian article at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/23/waiting-for-the-tide-to-turn-kiribatis-fight-for-survival.
The most pressing problem for the island is a lack of fresh water which lies under the atolls and islands of Kiribati in what are known as a “water lenses”. Fresh water, which is less dense, floats on top of the denser salt water in a convex shape giving the sources their name. Rising tides and sea incursions are polluting the once-reliable sources and ruining the taro plant pits, known as babai pits, which depend on the fresh water source.
The Kiribati Islands FA is not a member of FIFA but is an associate member of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and can play in the OFC Nations Cup, though has never won a match in that competition.
However, they are a member of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (ConIFA), the international governing body for Non-FIFA affiliated Associations for football, futsal, and beach soccer, and have qualified for their 2018 world championships.
The 2018 ConIFA World Football Cup will be the third edition of the tournament for states, minorities, stateless peoples and regions not affiliated to FIFA. The tournament is being hosted by the Barawa Football Association, which is located in Somalia. All games will be played in London, England, instead of Somalia.
A small tournament with a big message. One that asserts national identity through football, in a geo-political environment where nations like Kiribati are literally fighting for survival. This is showcasing the power of football at its best, not the money-driven Best that FIFA obsequiously worshipped in London earlier this week.
The hope has to be that the stories of the ConIFA World Cup in 2018 in London will be much better told and more meaningfully embraced – an opportunity for football to contribute to making a real difference.
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