London awaits as World Football Cup draw takes place in Northern Cyprus

By David Owen

January 15 – The draw has been completed for the 2018 World Football Cup, to be staged in London between May 31 and June 9.

The 16-team tournament is under the aegis of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA). The nearly five-year-old body comprises members who may be categorised as nations, minorities, isolated dependencies or cultural regions not under the auspices of FIFA. This takes in a hugely diverse range of entities, from Greenland to Zanzibar.

The draw, which took place in Northern Cyprus, split qualifiers into four groups, in the once classical tournament format.

As arguably the strongest of these, Group 2 – bracketing defending champions Abkhazia, Northern Cyprus, Tibet and Felvidék, a Hungarian-inhabited region of Slovakia – has been characterised inevitably as the “group of death”.

Other groups will be as follows: Group 1 – Barawa (a region of Somalia), Ellan Vannin (the Isle of Man), Tamil Eelam (part of Sri Lanka) and Cascadia (western North America); Group 3 – European champions Padania (part of Italy), Székely Land (a Hungarian part of Romania), Kiribati and Matabeleland; Group 4 – Panjab, United Koreans in Japan, Western Armenia and Kabylia (part of Algeria).

“The draw has provided some interesting and unusual encounters, and we are sure all games will entertain the large crowds that we are sure London is going to supply,” said Per-Anders Blind, CONIFA’s President, whose origins lie in a minority population in Swedish Lappland.

Specific venues for the competition have yet to be confirmed, though Blind said last year the body was in negotiation with different London clubs, including Charlton Athletic and Barnet.

Tickets are expected to go on sale shortly.

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