Football Championship for Rebel Republics Kicks Off in Abkhazia

SUKHUMI, Abkhazia - Georgia’s Russia-backed separatist region Abkhazia will for the first time host the 2016 World Football Cup for teams from unrecognized or self-declared countries.

The May 25-June 5 tournament kicks off at the separatist capital Sukhumi’s newly built Dynamo Stadium.

The teams will compete in an “alternative world cup” that is not recognized by the sport’s governing body FIFA. The clubs will instead compete under the authority of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA).

CONIFA was founded in 2013 and brings together teams from unrecognized states and autonomous regions within existing states that are not officially recognized by FIFA.

The decision to hold this year’s tournament in Abkhazia came after the Hungarian embassy in Moscow refused to issue visas to Abkhaz players for the European Championship 2015 amid protests from Georgia’s Foreign Ministry and the Georgian Football Federation.

The de facto president of the Abkhaz Football Federation Jemal Gubaz said that Abkhazia welcomed the chance to host the event. Abkhaz authorities hope the tournament will help promote the region.

Georgia fought a brutal war against Russia and its local Abkhaz proxies in 1992-1993. The war left thousands dead and led to the ethnic cleansing of up to 200,000 ethnic Georgians.

Abkhazia, along with South Ossetia, was recognized as an independent state by Moscow following the 2008 Russian-Georgian War.

By Tamar Svanidze
Edited by Nicholas Waller


27 May 2016 21:22