We are delighted to announced the Future Football: a design for life, conference will feature a new film by Dr Joel Rookwood. An overview of the film is provided below and will no-doubt be a highlight of the day and a perfect way to celebrate the closure of the conference.
Film title: ‘The other World Cup: Football across borders’ by Joel Rookwood
Nationhood is often a key layer of social identity. For many people their sense of national identity remains a fairly static construct, and for others the notion is subject to greater fluidity, contestation and (re)negotiation. The United Nations is often considered to represent the standards for statehood – who currently recognise 193 member states. Territories vying for sovereignty however will often attempt to engage in less direct political processes including sporting competition, organised in the framework of international governing bodies at continental and global levels. The IOC have 206 members, and FIFA have 211. Bosnia for example attained FIFA recognition before being granted U.N member status; Palestine however are not currently considered to be an independent state by the U.N yet are affiliated to FIFA.
For ‘nations’ that FIFA have not or will not recognise or offer membership to, an alternative governing body has emerged which organises ‘international’ football competitions. CONIFA (Confederation of Independent Football Associations) profess to ‘gather’ over 166m people from 42 member entities. CONIFA also claim to serve as: “A global acting non-profit organization that supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories; CONIFA aims to build bridges between people, nations, minorities and isolated regions all over the world through friendship, culture and the joy of playing football; CONIFA works for the development of affiliated members and is committed to fair play and the eradication of racism.”
Since the inception of the confederation in 2013, its memberships and impact have often proven inconsistent, and tournaments have been sporadic, with some chaotic organisation and involvement. The most recent event – the ‘2016 World Football Cup’ – was held in Abkhazia, a disputed territory on the Russian border that is usually considered either independent from or autonomous within Georgia (most nations recognise unionism over separatism). ‘The other World Cup: Football across borders’ is a film documenting a visit to both Georgia and Abkhazia in May 2016, culminating in coverage of the World Football Cup, hosted and won for the first time by the Abkhazians. The film combines elements of football, statehood, identity and conflict, focusing particularly on the Georgian-Abkhazian context – where thousands have been killed in conflict.
The film examines various Georgian views from football fans spanning the political spectrum on Abkhazian sovereignty, ascertained on Georgia’s Independence Day in the capital of Tbilisi.
The documentary then focuses on the experience of travelling overland across the border to Abkhazia, a frontier complete with opposing armed military personnel, an extensive no man’s land and a U.N patrolled buffer zone. The film also examines the prevailing preoccupation with socio-cultural, linguistic and political distinction, and the scarcity of cross-border connections. It reveals some of the scars of warfare in the militaristic and Soviet territory flanked by mountains, coastline and contested borders, which can appear to be a living museum to conflict. Finally, the film addresses the organisation and hosting of the CONIFA Football World Cup staged in the de-facto capital of Sokhumi, and the Black Sea resort of Gagra towards the Russian border.
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