Western Sahara Outline
Hundreds of miles of coastline, plenty of sand, year-round sunshine and cheap prices – sounds like anyone’s idea of paradise, right? Except there’s a catch: this country doesn’t actually exist! Welcome to Western Sahara. Situated in the northwest of Africa with Morocco to the north and Mauritania to the south, Western Sahara is a disputed territory between Morocco and the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, or SADR for short. As the name would suggest, the country is virtually all desert and is one of the most sparsely-inhabited countries in the world. Western Sahara is home to just over half a million people, of which around 40% live in the largest city of Laâyoune.
Conflict has been prevalent in this part of the world since the 1950s, when Morocco decided to lay claim to the Spanish-held territory. The Spanish successfully repelled the Moroccan army from the area before things got messier. Soon after, the newly-formed country of Mauritania decided they wanted their own slice of the Sahara – especially after huge phosphate deposits were found, which would mean huge economic benefits for whichever country could get their hands on them. The UN soon got involved and asked Spain to decolonise the territory. They obliged the request and relinquished control of the territory, leaving Morocco and Mauritania to fight over it – literally!
A war erupted between the two nations and a newly-formed Sahrawi nationalist movement group called The Polisario Front, who were fighting for independence from both countries and for an independent country called The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. After 4 years of conflict, Mauritania decided they wanted nothing more to do with the war, and so withdrew from the fighting. This left Morocco and The Polisario Front to fight it out for over a decade before the UN stepped in to broker a ceasefire in 1991. To this day, Morocco lay claim to over two thirds of the country, which includes the biggest city of Laâyoune and a large chunk of the country’s phosphate reserve. The remaining third is controlled by the Algerian-backed SADR.
Football in Western Sahara
Football in The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic has a colourful history, with many different teams representing the nation over the years. In the early days, unofficial games were played against Algerian league teams, with a few friendlies being played against Spanish and Italian sides during the 80s and 90s, before the foundation of an official Sahrawi Football Federation in 2003. Games against Macau and the northwestern Spanish territory of Galicia followed before they entered their first tournament in 2012, the VIVA World Cup. VIVA was essentially an older version of the current CONIFA World Cup.
They were drawn in a group with the Occitania and the hosts (and eventual winners) Iraqi Kurdistan. Their first-ever official game was played in front of nearly 9,000 people as they were on the end of a 6-0 thrashing to the hosts, before again conceding six goals against Occitania – but this time managing to find the net twice. Convincing 5-1 and 3-0 wins against Darfur and Raetia followed in the placement matches before becoming unstuck again against Occitania, seeing them finish a respectable 6th in their first-ever tournament.
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic are one of 4 African teams who have qualified for the 2020 CONIFA World Cup in Skopje, along with Matabeleland, Kabylia and Darfur, so they will surely be hoping to make an impact in the upcoming games.
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic – Just the stats:
Head Coach: Sidahmed Erguibi Ahmed Baba Haiai
First recorded game: SADR 2 – 3 Le Mans UC 72 (FRA)
Biggest win: SADR 5 – 1 Darfur
Biggest loss: SADR 3 – 17 UGA Ardiev
Record Goalscorer: Sahla Ahmed Budah (3)