The Best of Slow Journalism: The Unrecognized

Photo: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

Photo: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

The most unusual of football tournaments took place between 28th May and 6th June in Abkhazia, a partially recognised state located between the Black Sea and the south-western flank of the Caucasus. The CONifa World Football Cup saw regions unaffiliated with global football’s governing body Fifa such as Székely Land, Kurdistan, Raetia and the Chagos Islands compete in what was a rare opportunity for players from unrecognised countries, pseudo-states and discriminated ethnic minorities.

The competing teams had very different ambitions, resources and levels of football prowess. Winning the tournament meant an awful lot to the hosts, who beat Panjab FA in the final on penalties. They aimed to project Abkhazia as a fully-fledged country, while Padania, a region of northern Italy, doesn’t have any plans for secession in the near future. Somaliland, according to one member of its delegation, “has only one stadium, and no one has ever played in it”, while the team representing Sapmi, also known as Lapland, included semi-professional footballers from the Norwegian league.

‘The Unrecognized’, published on US travel and culture website Roads & Kingdoms, sees journalist Joshua Keating and documentary photographer Jason Andrew follow these unrecognised nations on and off the pitch, focusing on the charming Somaliland team, who become a fans’ favourite despite poor results. They are refugees, migrants and sons of the homeless: an unrecognised team of an unrecognised nation.

In terms of quality football, it’s hardly Euro 2016 – but this is a story full of colour and pride told brilliantly by Keating and Andrew. You can read it here.

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