• Sweden's news in English
 

Stateless 'World Cup' kicks off in Sweden

Published: 06 Jun 2014 16:02 GMT+02:00

Despite yet another crushing defeat, Darfur United's goalkeeper is still upbeat about playing in an international soccer tournament near the snow-peaked foothills of northern Sweden.

"Football helps us ... we get to tell people about the situation in our camps. Otherwise nobody hears about us," Ismail Gamaradin tells AFP after his team lost 19-0 to stronger, better trained players from the breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia in the first round of CONIFA World Cup matches.

The day before they lost 20-0 to Padania, a team representing them autonomous aspirations of Northern Italy.

Gamaradin was just 11 when Janjaweed militia gunned down his father in front of him, forcing him to flee with his mother and seven younger siblings to refugee camps three-days-walk away.

"It's very difficult there now -- there's not enough food, medicine or education and the UN says we have to go back to Darfur next year," added the soft-spoken 23-year old.

"But there is still killing and raping everywhere. We don't think there'll be peace any time soon."

His team consists of survivors of a conflict that began in 2003 and has killed hundreds of thousands according to some estimates. They came to Sweden with the help of an aid group working in camps on the Chad-Sudan border that house more than 300,000 people.

California-based group i-ACT brought footballs to the camps in 2005 to help rebuild the shattered lives of the refugees. And football has become a way to tell the world about a forgotten crisis overshadowed by other refugee emergencies such as Syria and South Sudan.

"Conditions are getting worse and worse, there is less and less aid ... We need to get Darfur on the map again," said i-ACT founder Gabriel Staurer, who lobbied hard to get the team to Sweden, amid warnings that Chad would stop the NGO-run football training in the camps if the refugees overstayed their visas.

Football is one of the few things these men have left, said Staurer, adding that militias visit their camps to lure the most desperate back to Darfur to fight in the escalating conflict.

"If these guys don't pick up a football, they're gonna pick up a gun," he said.

Darfur United was up against other teams with large refugee diaspora including Kurds, Aramean-Syriacs, and Tamils.

They all expressed the same goal: using football to put their people on the map.

"I feel really honoured to wear the jersey of Tamil Eelam," said Umaesh Sundaralingam, a 21-year-old student from Toronto, Canada.

Tamil Tiger rebels fought to control this part of northern Sri Lanka in a war with government forces that killed at least 100,000 -- ending in the alleged massacre of 40,000 Tamil civilians before the government claimed victory in 2009.

An international Tamil youth organisation selected players from Canada, France, Germany and the UK -- some of them professional players -- many of whom met for the first time just ahead of the tournament.

"The one thing that connected everyone was that we all have roots in Tamil Eelam -- a lot of people don't know what went on in Sri Lanka and we want to publicise it," said Sundaralingam, at the stadium which was dotted with bright red Tamil flags bearing the separatist group's tiger emblem.

"And this is one way to show we're a nation and that we're stronger than ever."

Yet despite the global ambitions of the teams to reach a wide audience, the stands in Östersund's 6,000-seat area, perched on a forested hillside above a glittering lake, were conspicuously empty for most of the games.

Per-Anders Blind, head of the Confederation of Independent Football (CONIFA), said it would take time for the word to spread as the organisation was less than a year old.

He put his faith in pay-to-view online broadcasts of the games which he said had already attracted more than a million viewers at previous friendly matches.

But Blind, who has indigenous Sami roots, also blamed the Swedish media for portraying the event as a world cup for ethnic minorities.

"I get so crazy when I hear that!" he said. "Take the Kurdish people -- even if they are a minority of 130,000 in Sweden, they are 40 million in the world."

Kurdistan, the ruling champions from the last non-FIFA tournament -- the 2012 VIVA World Cup in Iraqi Kurdistan -- were tipped to win the final on June 8th, until they were knocked out in the quarter finals.

That left Aramean-Syriacs, a diaspora team with Middle Eastern roots among the favourites -- with stiff competition from the County of Nice in France and the Isle of Man. Blind hoped Sweden's sizeable Aramean-Syriac community would boost paltry ticket sales when they play at the weekend.

And while the competition was expected to be fierce, just wearing their national colours in an international tournament was enough for most.

"We have our own identity," said Lee Dixon, the Isle of Man coach from the self-governing island between Ireland and Britain (and no relation to the former Arsenal defender).

"But a lot of these teams are fighting for their own identity -- breaking away from a country or trying to get their country back."

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.no)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Christian Democrat party leader quits politics
Christian Democrat leader Göran Hägglund is quitting politics. Photo: TT

Christian Democrat party leader quits politics

Göran Hägglund, the leader of one of Sweden's four centre-right opposition Alliance parties has resigned, insisting it had nothing to do with the controversial December Agreement that the Alliance struck with the government. READ  

Teenage gunman threat at Gothenburg school
Police in Gothenburg are searching for the missing gunman. Photo: TT

Teenage gunman threat at Gothenburg school

A teenage gunman threatened a female teacher at a high school in Gothenburg on Thursday afternoon, before fleeing the scene. Police told The Local that a huge operation was underway, with patrol cars and a helicopter scouring the city. READ  

Swedish Dads project gives surprise snapshot
Bävman and his 3-year-old son, Viggo. Photo: Johan Bävman

Swedish Dads project gives surprise snapshot

Sweden is often described as one of the most gender-equal nations in the world, but when Swedish father Johan Bävman started a photo project about being a dad during his paternity leave, he realized his country didn't always match global expectations. READ  

Integration now second biggest voter issue
A mosque in Stockholm. Photo: TT

Integration now second biggest voter issue

Education is the top issue for Swedish voters, with integration coming second, in a new poll which also suggests growing concerns about rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Sweden. READ  

Sony ditches streaming service for Spotify
Swedens most famous start-up is gaining rapid momentum. Photo: TT

Sony ditches streaming service for Spotify

Swedish music streamer Spotify will provide the soundtrack for Sony devices, the two companies have announced, spelling the end to the streaming music service from the Japanese tech giant that invented the Walkman. READ  

The Local List
Top five trends from Stockholm Fashion Week
Stockholm Fashion Week. Photo: Kristian Löveborg/Fashion Week.se

Top five trends from Stockholm Fashion Week

Stockholm's twice-yearly fashion week wrapped up on Wednesday night, with bare backs, bellbottoms and beige among the top trends spotted by The Local on the catwalks. READ  

Sweden wins bronze at food 'World Cup'
Tommy Myllymäki from Sweden came third in the contest. Photo: TT

Sweden wins bronze at food 'World Cup'

The world's most prestigious food competition, Bocuse d'Or, has wrapped up in Lyon, France, with a top Swedish chef scooping a bronze and a Norwegian talent taking the crown. READ  

What's on in Sweden
What’s on: January 31st - February 7th
Jokkmokk Market is set to draw in the crowds this week. Photo: TT

What’s on: January 31st - February 7th

Gothenburg's Film Festival is underway, the Swedish capital has got its skates on as it hosts the European figure skating championships for the first time in decades, while Jokkmokk in northern Sweden is stepping back in time. READ  

'Nazi' question lands broadcaster in hot water
Crown Princess Victoria in Poland on Tuesday. Photo: TT

'Nazi' question lands broadcaster in hot water

Sweden's public broadcaster SVT was facing a backlash on social media on Wednesday after a reporter asked Crown Princess Victoria about her family's history during her visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. READ  

The Local List
Ten ways talking in English baffles Swedes
A Viking - sometimes pronounced 'Wiking', in Sweden. Photo: Shutterstock

Ten ways talking in English baffles Swedes

While Swedes are among the world's best English speakers, there are a few common - and often charming - mistakes The Local's team has spotted while chatting to Swedes in their second language (because yes, of course, it is still better than our Swedish). READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching: January 28th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: European Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
National
Does Sweden help returning Isis fighters more than Swedish veterans?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: January snow snaps
Blog updates

26 January

The mysterious -s, part 1 (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! How is your Swedish coming along? A while ago I read on a forum on The..." READ »

 

23 January

Editor’s blog, January 23rd (The Local Sweden) »

"Happy Friday from The Local’s team in Stockholm. We can’t wait for the weekend, when we’re planning..." READ »

 
 
 
Society
Is Sweden's healthcare system a national embarassment?
Gallery
Property of the week: Skanör, Vellinge
Lifestyle
'Life as a Swedish candy-maker is sweet'
National
Why Sweden's Left party wants a European 'Red Spring'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's hottest new fashion designers for 2015
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Who travels on Stockholm's different subway lines?
Lifestyle
Why this Swedish baby is a US hit
Lifestyle
'Limousine' snowplough for sale
People-watching: January 24th - 25th
Gallery
People-watching: January 24th - 25th
Society
Meet the 'beggars' buttoning up immigration critics
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden this week
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Madeleine through the years
Features
Learn Sweden's bizarre dating lingo
People-watching: January 21st - 22nd
Gallery
People-watching: January 21st - 22nd
Society
Why Sweden's viral 'genital' video is getting an English remake
National
Why does Sweden's Luleå have a giant ice beaver?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Who are Sweden's richest one percent?
Business & Money
How a classic Swedish snack got a revamp for 'busy' Stockholmers
Lifestyle
The Local's top Swedish acts for 2015
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Årets Bild photography prize winners
Business & Money
'I met my Swedish man in Tokyo's first Ikea store'
Gallery
Property of the week: A cozy apartment in Bromma, Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: January 17th - 18th
Lifestyle
How to make Swedish gravad lax
Lifestyle
Four hot Swedish home design trends
National
How The Local's video on a strange Swedish sound went viral
Gallery
People-watching: January 14th
National
The Local's guide to Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Politics
Paris attacks: Knock-on effects in Sweden and across Europe
National
Swedish Muslims react to new Charlie Hebdo magazine
National
The Local talks to Sweden's Home Affairs Minister about Paris attacks
Business & Money
Will Spotify launch on stock market after users rocket?
Accelerated
Texans and Swedes to play ice instruments
Gallery
Property of the week: An 18th century mansion in Stockholm
Business & Money
'Snowboarding drew me to work in chilly Sweden'
National
Are Sweden's royals moving to London?
National
How Sweden's Charlie Hebdo rally broke a winter protest record
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Madeleine through the years
Sponsored Article
Everything you need to know about moving to Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

1,135
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se
Counselling and Psychotherapy in English
Sometimes living in another culture can cause stress, confusion and feelings of sadness and loneliness. Talking to a professional psychotherapist/counsellor might help you. I am a UKCP Reg. psychotherapist. My practice is in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Contact me to discuss your options