Following on from our recent ‘Top 5 Soviet Union Football Shirts’ blog, we thought we’d delve into the world of CONIFA to see what kind of funky football shirts their member nations have to offer. If you don’t know what CONIFA is, here’s a brief rundown;
The Confederation of Independent Football Associations or CONIFA for short is a global non-profit organisation that supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories. CONIFA has organised several tournaments throughout the years including World Cups and European Championships.
In fact, YPT were at one time the official travel partners of CONIFA – a partnership we were thrilled with at the time! However, in the last 12 months or so CONIFA seems to have had some severe internal issues. Without going into too much politics, several member nations have split from the organisation as well as multiple board members and volunteers leaving due to disagreements with its future direction. You can read more about it here.
Anyway, less with the politics and more with the football shirts – and there are some absolute corkers in here!
Sardina Home Shirt
Let’s kick things off with this eye-catching number from the beautiful Italian island of Sardinia. Originally founded back in 1990, their first recorded game was against the England national team who were in Sardinia for a training camp in order to prepare for the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. As you can imagine the game didn’t go too well for the amateurs, as they were slapped 10-2 by the English.
Sardinia became full members of CONIFA in 2018, and we’re set to compete in the 2019 European Championships in Artsakh. However, they withdrew citing a lack of organizational and logistical guarantees for the professional players to face such a long and demanding trip.
This was the shirt that Sardinia had prepared for the tournament, it was produced by Sardinian sportswear company ‘EYE’ – and it has to be said that this shirt is a real eye-catcher. The bright green pattern and decals really stand out on the white background, whilst the team crest looks really sharp. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see this shirt at the European Championships, but hopefully, sometime in the near future, we’ll catch a glimpse of this shirt in action.
Barawa Home Shirt
Next on our list is the Barawa home shirt. The Barawa football team is the team representing the Somali diaspora in England. The side is named after Brawa, a port town in the southwestern Lower Shebelle region of Somalia. The Barawa Football Association was founded in 2015, with the aim of highlighting Barawanese culture around the world whilst trying to redevelop football in the southern region of Somalia.
Barawa became members of CONIFA in 2016, and was chosen as the host for the 2018 CONIFA World Cup Finals. Despite being a Somali representative team, under CONIFA’s rules the tournament does not necessarily have to be played in the host’s territory and as the Barawa FA represents members of the Somali diaspora in England, the tournament was held in London.
Barawa also recently became members of the World Unity Football Alliance, an organisation similar to CONIFA but with a far greater emphasis on promoting human rights issues, equality in society and amplifying the voices of the marginalised around the world. You can check them out here.
This shirt was produced by Stingz sportswear, who also manufactured the shirts for Cascadia, Tuvalu and the match officials for the 2018 CONIFA World Cup. This design of this shirt shouldn’t work, but for some reason it just does. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a design like it. The blue, green and red stripes really stand out, Stingz have done a great job at blending the colours together to create this unique looking shirt.
Matabeleland Home Shirt
Staying with the African theme, next up we have the Matabeleland home shirt. The Matabeleland football team is the team representing Matabeleland, a region located in southwestern Zimbabwe. The Matabeleland football association was founded in 2016 and were soon made full members of CONIFA.
Their first participation in a major tournament was at the CONIFA World Football Cup in 2018. They had a mixed bag of results at the tournament. After losing 6-1 to Padania and 5-0 to Székely Land, Matabeleland bounced back with a 3-1 victory over Tuvalu before losing 4-3 on penalties to Kabylia in the first placement round. However, boosted by the appearance of Zimbabwean and Liverpool legendary goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, two 1–0 victories followed against the Chagos Islands and Tamil Eelam in the following placement rounds, they eventually finished 13th in the overall tournament rankings.
Their shirt for the tournament was something special, and was a fan favourite for sure! As part of the marketing for the tournament, sponsors Paddy Power launched a competition to design the kit Matabeleland will wear during the competition. Using the traditional colours of white, black and golden yellow the Paddy Power judging panel settled on this beauty. The dazzling diamond designs are a real standout feature, and it’s easy to see why so many fans adopted Matabeleland as their team for the World Cup – wouldn’t you if it meant you could wear this shirt?!
Tibet Home Shirt
Depending on your political persuasion Tibet is either illegally occupied or peacefully liberated. We’re not here to talk politics, only football shirts and this shirt is a stunner. The Tibetan National Football Association was founded in 2001 and have competed in several ‘international’ football tournaments over the years such as the 2006 FIFI (Federation of International Football Independents) Wild Cup, which is essentially the CONIFA of the past.
After becoming members of CONIFA, Tibet were awarded a place in the 2018 CONIFA World Cup via a wild card pick. It’s safe to say they had a pretty torrid time of things, losing all three of their group matches with a goal difference of -9! In the placement rounds they were battered 8-1 by Kabylia before recording a respectable 1-1 draw against the United Koreans in Japan, albeit losing 4-1 on penalties.
Unlike the performances on the pitch, their home shirt is fantastic. Produced by Copa Football, the blue and red rays extending from the centre of the badge kinda reminds me of the North Macedonia flag, which coincidently is where the 2020 CONIFA World Cup should’ve been held until the pandemic decided to ruin everything. It’s a real scorcher of a shirt, the colours work well against each other, and the little sleeve patch is a really cool feature to the shirt. Great job by Copa on this one!
Chagos Islands Home Shirt
Last but certainly not least is this Chagos Islands shirt produced for the 2020 CONIFA World Cup finals. The Chagos Islands are a group of seven atolls and around 60 tropical islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It sounds idyllic but the islands and its people have quite the sad story. During the 70’s the entire population of the Chagos Islands were forcefully removed from their homeland and dumped more than 1,000 miles away in Mauritius to make way for a joint military base for the UK and US, whilst making it illegal to return without military clearance.
Years and years of legal cases and rulings have repeatedly knocked back any hopes of the Chagossians returning back to their homeland, including the U.K. ignoring a United Nations ruling stating they should hand the Chagos Islands back to Mauritius.
The majority of the islanders have now resettled in the United Kingdom and in February 2013 the Chagos Football Association was formed, and became members of CONIFA only a year later. The Chagos Islands were announced as one of the 12 participants for the 2016 CONIFA World Football Cup to be hosted by Abkhazia, but unfortunately for the Chagossians they had a disaster of a tournament finishing rock bottom after heavy 12-0 and 9-0 defeats to Western Armenia and hosts Abkhazia.
After gaining qualification for the 2020 CONIFA World Cup, the Chagos Islands produced this beaut of a shirt in conjunction with sportswear producer ‘Hope and Glory’. The design is totally unique, and I doubt you’ll ever see another shirt like it. The orange and blue colours are creatively blended together using circles which helps creates a really vibrant transition. The black sleeves help with making the colours of the shirt really pop and stand out. Overall it’s definitely one of my favourite CONIFA shirts, if not one of my favourite shirts in my collection!.