FIFA divides the world into the six regions:
These six “continents” hold a a quarry of curiosities.
Palestine competes as its own country in the South Asian Football Federation, and is a FIFA member. On the other side of the West Bank, Israel is the only country in the region that competes in the European UEFA.
The South American nations Suriname, Guyana, and French Guina, all compete in the North America & Carribean CONCACAF. Curious to see these three nations classified as Carribean, while the evidence points that they clearly lie on the South American continent.
Australia is, strangely, excluded from the Oceania region. Oceania is the smallest region, and receives the fewest bids to the world cup. Kiribati, Micronesia, Niue, and Palau are all part of the Oceanian regional football federation, but are non-FIFA members. New Zealand is the region’s lone upstart representative in the World Cup.
The United Kingdom does not recognize FIFA so that Scotland, Wales, and the English can settle their differences on the pitch. The fact that the UK scoffs at the idea of performing as a single state can be bolstered by the fact that nearly the whole of their former empire competes in the Commonwealth Games.
Other UN states that are not in FIFA include Monaco, Kosovo, Nauru and the Vatican city.
Nauru has declined FIFA membership, as the washed up phosphorous mine has no space or money to spare on football. What will happen to the Tuvalu and Maldives’ federations, as their countries sink. The rule to date has been no country, no state.
After a few head scratchers with the continental groupings, the real fun starts when you get into the areas that begin to call into question the difference between a country and a state.
FIFA really gets interesting when you look into the provisional members of the Nouvelle Nouvelle Fédération-Board, whose members are composed of people without states, new states, and sovereign territories. FIFA has its eyes on would be states, to assist their international recognition on the pitch, should the receive international recognition. Their list of provisional members is an impressive list of obscuro-geography:
The Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Casamance, Western Sahara, Yap (a Micronesian state), Zanzibar, Sardinia, the Kingdom of the two Sicilies, Easter Island, Maasai, and the micrnoation of Sealand all have made inroads with FIFA through this program for future membership.
Sicily and Kurdistan have already played an international friendly, facilitated by the Nouvelle Fédération-Board. Which now hosts the VIVA world cup, the creme de la creme for non-FIFA-member states. Padania, a province of Northern Italy, most recently defeatedIraqi-Kurdistan for the title of best football team without an internationally recognized state.
For those who are curious, Tibet has been repeatedly thrashed on an international stage. And it’s doubtful China will allow its membership any time soon.
The Assyrian people, a diaspora of 3 million, have a larger population than this world cup’s tiniest contender, Slovenia, a population of 2 million. Still, without an internationally recognized state, a world cup berth is a dream that must follow a revolution.
Many of these tiny countries will remain provisional members, and it’s doubtful we’ll see an independence movement hinging on FIFA membership on its core ideal. Don’t be surprised if you see Somaliland, Greenland, Kosovo, Zanzibar, and Iraqi Kurdistan make the jump to full time membership in the coming decade.
Greenland’s admission begs the question of whether the state should compete in CONCACAF or UEFA, with European cultural ties, but is part of the North American continent.
FIFA recognition would likely follow a tremendous milestone in international recognition.
With that said… Go Zanzibar!