Friday 1 February 2013

Interview #4 (February 2013) – leading non-FIFA journalist and Outcasts! author Steve Menary

The release of Outcasts! The Lands That FIFA Forgot in 2007 was ground-breaking for non-FIFA football. It was the first and so far only time a book has been written and published on the side of international football played beyond FIFA's auspices. This month we caught up with the author Steve Menary to discuss his release of an updated Outcasts!, his future plans as well as the current state of non-FIFA football.
Update...the new Outcasts! cover

Menary has been involved with non-FIFA football ever since and is the leading journalist in the field. Every month his articles are published in World Soccer and has also written for FourFourTwo, Guardian Unlimited, When Saturday Comes and others. Since the books release Menary has returned to different places featured in the book to describe the on-going status of international recognition for teams like Gibraltar and Greenland, as well as unearthing new stories in places such as Saint Pierre and Miquelon and Darfur.  

A new edition of Outcasts! has recently been published on Kindle. Available on Amazon, the new version includes an epilogue as well as extra photos. 

NFFU: It’s been over 4 years since the 1st release of Outcasts! and the release of the updated version on Kindle. For many of the teams little has changed in that time, but not Gibraltar. When you were writing the book did you think they’d ever make it into UEFA? 

SM: When I first met the Gibraltarians I thought they would eventually get crushed by invested interests at bigger associations but that changed. They are very determined and when I wrote the epilogue last year for the new edition of Outcasts it seemed much more realistic.

NFFU: As mentioned some other teams seem as isolated as ever. Do you believe Greenland will ever manage to join UEFA/FIFA? 

SM: If they become independent I'm sure they will, but they do seem as isolated as ever in every possible sense.

NFFU: Greenland will play at the Island Games in Bermuda this summer but will be one of few teams. Do you think the IGA regret the decision to hold the tournament in a location which is quite expensive to reach/stay in? 

SM: On the surface, it might seem like a step backwards with reduced numbers but it will expand the notion of the Island Games movement outside Europe. In terms of hosting Games, the IGA has always focused on Europe but the membership is not solely restricted to Europe . The Isle of Wight, Isle of Man and both the main Channel Islands - all in Europe - have each hosted it twice. So the IGA were trying to do the right thing and Bermuda's still a great place with good facilities, but travel costs have risen, which I'm sure the IGA did not anticipate when they decided to let Bermuda host this year's event.

NFFU: Guernsey have chosen to join the English club system and Guernsey F.C. are currently in the Combined Counties Premier League (level 9) chasing a 2nd straight promotion. Do you think that the football bodies on Guernsey have all but given up on international football? 

SM: Probably, given the success that the Guernsey FC team have enjoyed since entering the English pyramid and the regular four figure crowds for games on the island.

NFFU: Do you think that Jersey will follow suit one day? 

SM: The JFA was always following a different route and when they had the ear of Geoff Thompson at FIFA, getting to some kind of middle ground seemed quite realistic, but the problems that UEFA and FIFA are having with Gibraltar and Kosovo has reduced their chances. In order to emulate Guernsey and the Jersey rugby side though they need significant funding first to cover the cost of getting teams out there for league games. I somehow doubt that ticket money would cover that for a whole season.

NFFU: Your most recent article for World Soccer was on Outre-Mer side Saint Pierre and Miquelon. What was your opinion on the quality at last autumn’s Coupe de l’Outre-Mer? 
The Outcasts! author

SM: There were some players that looked particularly good like Chamsidine Attoumani of Mayotte. I was surprised there were not more scouts at the early games.

NFFU: It seems few or indeed none of the (Outre-Mer) teams have designs on joining FIFA. Is this the case? 

SM: That looks to be the case. The Caribbean ones get regular matches in the Caribbean Cup. French Guiana's experience in Paris this year was interesting. They used the tournament as a training tournament for the players back home and that paid off by qualifying for the subsequent Caribbean Cup finals. 

NFFU: Martinique were the surprise package at last year’s Caribbean Cup. Do you think they can continue to shock at this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup?

SM: Depends which players they can get to play. It's off-season in Europe, so they could get out a strong side that might surprise a few people.

NFFU: The N.F.-Board held a successful and competitive VIVA World Cup in the summer. Did you follow the tournament or ever think of going out to Kurdistan? 

SM: I was invited to a recce that the NF Board undertook to work out the scheduling, but couldn't make that or the finals, which was a shame as it looked to be the best organised VIVA World Cup to date.

NFFU: Do you think the N.F.-Board will ever forge a relationship with FIFA?

SM: Probably not. They've met senior FIFA people in the past and it's come to nothing.

NFFU: Kurdistan played with FIFA members in the Al-Nakba Cup last May, and the Northern Mariana Islands will contest their first AFC Challenge Cup qualification in March despite not being a FIFA member. In Europe, Kosovo are not even allowed to play friendlies. Why do you think this is? 

SM: One word: politics

NFFU: What do you make of FIFA’s recent decision to reject Kiribati’s bid for membership? 

SM: Ludicrous.

NFFU: The Vatican are set to play Raetia in June. Have you ever managed to get good, consistent contact with Vatican football authorities? 

Coverage...a Menary piece in FourFourTwo
SM: Yes, I went to a round of matches in the Vatican league in Rome in Autumn 2011 for World Soccer.  I met all the people involved, including the late Dr Sergio Valci. Ever since then, I've been sent regular results for the league.

NFFU: Do you feel Monaco will ever try for FIFA membership or is there not enough willpower there to try and negotiate with the Monaco government, AS Monaco or the French FA? 

SM: I doubt it. AS Monaco is Monaco's footballing representative and I can't imagine why the government or Royal Family would do anything to jeopardise that.

NFFU: Since the release of Outcasts! which FA’s have you kept in touch with? Are there any which you particularly wish to achieve more recognition? 

SM: I've kept in touch with a few. I always had some sympathy for the Greenlanders. They are stuck in limbo because of what's going on with Gibraltar and the team there has more of a social side, taking players from the end of the world to places they would otherwise not see, than probably any other 'international' team in the world.

NFFU: Do you have any plans to write a 2nd, full edition of Outcasts? 

SM: Probably not. When I was working on Outcasts in 2005-07, the idea of writing about this sort of football was mostly unheard of. Publishers thought the only way to write about it was to make fun of the teams concerned, which I didn't want to do, and it was really difficult finding a publisher that would pay an advance. Now all that's changed. There's clearly more interest in football outside the top leagues/national teams. That's evident in the increasing emergence in the past few years of websites on a greater variety of footballing topics, many of which very good and well researched like yours and Pat's Football Blog. I'm not sure there's the 'space' for a second edition of Outcasts now.

NFFU: Are you planning on heading to any non-FIFA games or tournaments in the next year? 

SM: Well, a trip back to Bermuda would be good...

NFFU: Could you name, if any, non-FIFA teams who you feel could realistically join their continental confederation or FIFA in the next few years? 

SM: Gibraltar because the law is on their side; Northern Mariana Islands, because there's a lot of good development work going on there, which is becoming increasingly evident from the results of their junior teams.

1 comment:

  1. Brittany are very strong. The nation can select from about 100 professional players ( They could match the likes of Denmark, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Slovenia, etc. With a genuine Breton government and a teaching of the nation's history, they should have more than the current 18% of their population asking for the reclaiming of the the nation's independence. So far, they can only play friendlies and four-teams tournaments (notably before Euro 2016). Never say never regarding the reclaiming of independence.