Credit : Paul Williams
By Tom Howe
As FIFA recoils from another damaging week, one that saw plans to expand the 2022 Qatar World Cup to 48 teams abandoned, it was refreshing to see hundreds put their faith into football’s other governing body yesterday.
Bodmin Town’s Priory Park hosted an afternoon of events in association with Cornish Partnerships and the newly-formed Kernow Football Alliance, which culminated in the team’s inaugural international fixture against Barawa FA – who represent the Somali diaspora based in this country.
It was the next step in Kernow FA’s aim to represent 11 million Cornish people on the international stage, having recently been inducted as the members of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (ConIFA).
Kernow FA were officially ratified by ConIFA at their January AGM in Krakow, Poland, providing a platform for Cornwall to join more than 50 other members across the globe, each with their own distinctive story – from nations, de-facto nations and regions to minority peoples.
ConIFA is the international governing body for non-FIFA affiliated football associations, with their watershed moment coming in London last June, when thousands of spectators flocked to the city to immerse themselves in the 2018 World Football Cup, won by Karpatalja (representing the Hungarian national minority of the Zakarpattya Oblast in Ukraine).
The idea for a Cornish membership was first floated in December 2016 by county native Andrew Bragg, who has followed the project through to the present day, now taking up the Alliance’s Director of Football role.
“The primary reason for me was to get Cornish football on the international stage and make people aware of us,” he said. “We are overlooked in Cornwall by professional clubs and don’t have a professional club of our own.”
“We will pick our players from local leagues and I’ve also spoken to a few of the Cornishmen playing professional football who are also interested.”
Having been introduced to ConIFA by Andrew, Kernow FA chairman Jason Heaton connected with the body’s president Per-Anders Blind and Paul Watson, their commercial director, and the rest – as they say – is history.
“Paul asked if I’d like to join the team to help with the World Football Cup in London,” said Jason. “I agreed and got to work. This was in September/October time and, by January, I had been voted in as global business director at the annual meeting.”
Both Jason and Andrew have a background in coaching and managing youth football within the county, having done so for over a decade, with the former saying: “Football is my life and my children play football here, too. Because of how Cornwall is geographically, it’s tough for players to represent the county at a professional level from what is a great football infrastructure, one that Cornwall FA should be very proud of.”
“We can offer something they can’t,” he added, “and it’s something we need. International football in a place that I know and love as a great football family, that is all about people. It’s exactly what Cornwall needs; something for players to look up to, for the good of the game and for the next generation.”
“We will evolve, obviously, but one of our objectives is to qualify for the 2020 World Cup.” continued Andrew, who also has previous experience as a chairman.
Following a celebration of Cornish culture, yesterday’s events were rounded off with Kernow’s maiden match against a fellow ConIFA member, with 2018 World Football Cup hosts Barawa making the trip.
All told, however, it was Kernow’s third fixture, having won friendlies against a Foxhole Stars XI (3-2) and Cornwall Charity Cup winners St Dennis (5-0).
To read more on ConIFA, visit www.conifa.org, or, for more information on the Kernow FA, or to volunteer your services and support, email firstname.lastname@example.org or search @KernowFA on Social Media.