July 01, 2016

Stateless Soccer

In early June, Abkhazia played host to the Second World Football Cup of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations. The confederation was founded in 2013 and includes teams from numerous unrecognized and semi-autonomous states around the world, ranging from Quebec and Somaliland to Greenland, Monaco and the Isle of Man.

On a sultry Sunday evening in the seaside town of Sukhumi, Abkhazia (a separatist region of Georgia that seeks independence) faced off against Panjab (representing the Punjabi diaspora in the UK). It seemed as if all of Abkhazia had shown up at the match. The stadium was full to overflowing; fans were sitting in the aisles, lying on roofs and clinging to poles and fences.

At some point, the police stopped letting people into the overloaded stadium. Frustrated fans crowded outside the fences, clutching valid tickets to the finals. Clearly, a large number of fans had “leaked” into the stadium because they knew someone.

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