It was third time lucky for Kurdistan at the 2012 VIVA World Cup as the hosts put two previous final defeats to Padania behind them with a 2-1 victory over Northern Cyprus to lift the Nelson Mandela trophy.
The Kurds put on the biggest and most competitive VIVA to date and were rewarded with strong crowds for matches featuring their side, including an impressive 22,000 for the final. The question now is how does the N.F.-Board move forward? There seems to be few future host candidates who have such financial and fan-drawing power as Kurdistan, whose government covered the cost of accommodation and flights from Turkey for each team.
The hosts were given the toughest assignment in group A but made a comfortable start as 9,000 people watched them put 6 past debutants Western Sahara without return, Nawzad Sherzad and Ali Aziz both scoring twice. The African side were playing their first full internationals and the lack of experience was apparent in the early stages of their second game against a strong Occitania team as they went 3-0 down in the first 15 minutes. However, shortly after half-time well-taken goals from Ahmed Budah and Selma Iarba brought the score back to 3-2 before the Occitan’s added 3 more for a comprehensive win. Despite the scoreline the 2 Western Sahara goals would come back to haunt Occitania, who went into the final group game needed all 3 points against the hosts. These sides met in the 2010 semi-finals when the Kurds edged it by one goal and it was the same story again in Sulaymaniyah, as Amad Ismael’s solitary first-half strike won the group for the hosts who had to endure some late pressure from the Occitan’s.
Group B got underway in Erbil as CAF member Zanzibar took on Raetia and despite a strong showing from the underdogs the Swiss-based side caved in late on and conceded 2 late strikes as they went down 6-0, Hamisi Mcha scoring 3. Day 2 saw the debut of Tamil Eelam who had enthusiastic internet support from their diaspora around the globe. The Leopards took on Raetia and a cagey game was settled by an 83rd- minute wonder-goal from Marco Dudler, with the Asian team left with the arduous task of toppling Zanzibar to stand a chance of progressing. Mcha opened the scoring with a superbly taken goal and despite dominating the game the Africans could only score 2 more, eventually topping group B with ease.
Group C would produce the biggest mis-matches of the finals as Darfur, a refugee team who had never played on grass before, took on non-FIFA giants Northern Cyprus and a dangerous Provence team. That the Africans were at the tournament was itself a huge achievement and they simply did not belong at this level, losing 15-0 to the Cypriots in the opening game. Provence were up next and they put 18 past the Dafuri’s without reply, leaving the French team requiring a point against Northern Cyprus to top the group. Instead one of the biggest shocks in VIVA history occurred as Provence came from 1-0 down to defeat the Cypriots 2-1, and consequently finished first. Kasim Tağman’s opener would prove crucial for Northern Cyprus as it meant they pipped Occitania as the best 2nd-place team on goal difference, thus securing their place in the last 4.
The placement games offered the opportunity for each knocked out side to play a couple more games and the battle to avoid the wooden spoon took place with Darfur taking on Western Sahara. The Saharawi’s ended up winning 5-1, their biggest international win, but the game will be long remembered for Darfur’s only goal to date, possibly ever. Mohamed Haggar Duogom’s 46th minute effort sent the bench into raptures, and the East Africans were level until the 75th minute only to surrender late on.
In the 5th-8th place semi-finals group B’s weakness was apparent as Raetia fell 3-0 to Western Sahara and Tamil Eelam were defeated 7-0 by Occitania, with their impressive captain Boris Massare getting on the score-sheet. The 7th-place playoff was a re-match between the Rhaetians and the Tamil’s and the Leopards passionate fans were finally rewarded with a fine 4-0 win courtesy of a hat-trick from Menan Nagulendran and goal from UK-based Rosh Sri. Occitania met Western Sahara for a 2nd time in the heat of Salahaddin for 5th place and came out 3-1 victors.
The semi-finals took place in Duhok on the 8th and almost 13,000 fans turned up to witness the hosts take on Provence, who were coached by former Valenciennes defender Philippe Burgio. The Kurds got off to the best possible start as Ismael scored after only 2 minutes. ‘Keeper Christopher Bosselet was keeping Provence in the game before the French side hauled themselves level in the 36th minute. Gaetan D'Acunto fired home from 25-yards to silence the home fans, who were stunned further more when Xalid Mushir blasted a 42nd-minute penalty against the bar. However in the 59th minute good play from Halgurd Mohamed allowed Ismael to bag his 3rd of the tournament and carry his nation through. The evening semi-final was a repeat of the 2006 FIFI Wild Cup final as Zanzibar took on Northern Cyprus, who were still reeling from their shock defeat to Provence. A nervy looking Zanzibar team did not commit forward and eventually the Cypriots found a 58th minute breakthrough via Mustapha Yaşinses, before Hüseyin Kayalilar wrapped the game up from the penalty spot with 20 minutes to play.Zanzibar were rewarded for attacking exploits in the 3rd-place match, however, as they thumped Provence 7-2.
The final was the game everyone had been hoping would happen – Kurdistan, a region and ethnicity not recognised by Turkey against Northern Cyprus, a republic only the Turks recognise. Getting these 2 teams on the same pitch is arguably the N.F.Board’s greatest ever achievement and the Franso Hairi stadium was rocking come kick-off. Iraqi TV had streamed all of Kurdistan’s games but interestingly cut out the anthems before the final. The hosts were offered the perfect start when they were given a controversial penalty in the 9th minute, and Halgurd confidently put his team into the lead. Despite the dubious decision Kurdistan were in full control and a combination of experienced goalkeeper Hasan Piro and the woodwork was keeping the Cypriots in it.
Eventually the Kurds scored their 2nd just after the half-hour as Piro came too far off his line for a free-kick and Herdi Siamand nodded home. However North Cyprus were given an unlikely route back into the match in the 42nd minute as Hamis Cakir dragged the ball back across goal only for Kurdish defender Sherzad Mohamed to knock it into his own net. This gave the Cypriots new belief and they started the second half roaring and Kayalilar hit the post from distance in the 49th minute. Miran Xasro almost added a 3rd for the hosts in the 73rd minute but the score stayed at 2-1, and the final whistle saw wild celebrations on the pitch and in the stands as Kurdistan finally won their first VIVA World Cup.
The tournament may have suffered from its classic problem of limited time and communication but there can be no question as to its success. Indeed just days after the final talks were held between non-FIFA workers and FIFA match-organising companies which could spell the start of significant development for this side of the international game. The next VIVA is to be held in Sweden in 2014 and the potential return of Padania and Aramean Suryoye could make the competition that bit stronger. In the meantime there are plans for a friendly tournament in England next May, as well as confirmed summer friendlies between Raetia and Monaco, and Alderney against Sealand.
For the latest non-FIFA news and updates follow @nonfifafootball