The 'World Cup for Forgotten Nations', CONIFA's World Football Cup 2020, is at risk of being cancelled due to the lack of a host.
CONIFA (the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, who oversee football for non-FIFA 'national' teams, including collections of self-declared republics and ethnic groups) held their last World Football Cup in London last summer and had selected autonomous region Somaliland to host the 2020 edition.
The volunteer organisation announced on the weekend that the self-declared independent state will no longer be the venue for next summer's tournament – leaving the competition in flux, with barely nine months until tournament kickoff time.
Somaliland's bid was the only one to make it in front of CONIFA's executive committee for voting this January, with a Donetsk bid unable to answer security questions asked of it.
The teams who have already qualified for the 2020 World Football Cup are: Mapuche, Somaliland (as hosts, place may not stand), Karpatalja, Western Sahara, South Ossetia, Darfur, Matabeleland and Kabylia.
Other potential bids from Cascadia (a bioregion in the Pacific Northwest) and Tokyo were put off until 2022 to secure funding; while Blacktown, Sydney in Australia was mooted as a potential host at an early stage of the process.
CONIFA exec committee members travelled to Somaliland early in 2019 to inspect the early preparations and were satisfied at the time – and noises about the competition were positive at the summer's European Football Cup in Artsakh; won by South Ossetia.
There was some resistance to the idea of Somaliland hosting the tournament earlier this year, with Jersey manager James Scott insisting that his side would not contravene British Foreign Office advice and travel to the region.
A source familiar with the situation has admitted that the organisation now face a battle to find a replacement host in time for the tournament to go ahead, with the nature of CONIFA meaning that many of its members are stateless or in conflict zones – making hosting any event a logistical nightmare.
A return to London is unlikely, with the costs associated with hosting a week-long, 16-team competition in the British capital likely to prove prohibitive without a sponsor willing to put a large amount of money behind organisation; as Paddy Power did last summer.
Reigning champions Karpatalja may struggle to defend their crown in the event a replacement host is found, with Ukraine – where many of the team have family, or hail from themselves – imposing sanctions on them after their success in London last year.