What is non-FIFA football?

FIFA is the international governing body of association football, charged with overseeing football globally and with running international representative matches. However, some international football takes place outside of its ratification. This often consists of matches involving sub-national entities such as islands, colonies or autonomous regions. 

Representative matches also occur involving states with limited international recognition who are unable to qualify for FIFA membership. There are also a limited number of states whose representative teams are not affiliated to FIFA. Historically, a number of competitions occurred outside of FIFA's auspices.

'National' teams


Broadly-speaking, there are six categories of Non-FIFA national team:

Regional associations

The first, and most common, are teams which represent the regional associations of established footballing nations. These oversee local football in their respective, self-governing regions, and are part of a network of associations that contribute to the national association as a whole. A good example of this would be Jersey or Iraqi Kurdistan. These regional associations often enter representative teams into international non-FIFA matches.

Autonomous (or autonomy-seeking) regions and unrecognised states


A second category encompasses regions of larger nations which have a history of autonomy. They may have already achieved a degree of autonomy (Catalonia, Galicia or Basque Country, for example), or be seeking it. Alternatively, some unrecognised states may have national teams. Some established members of UEFA once fell into this category, such as the Faroe Islands and Moldova.


Current non-FIFA heavyweights Northern Cyprus are the best example of this category of non-FIFA football team. Also included are the representative sides of the Spanish autonomous regions, which currently play just one game a year, traditionally at Christmas.

Non-FIFA sides who are members of their continental body


There are several sides under this category  Sides such as Martinique and French Guiana are members of CONCACAF, but not of FIFA and receive the backing of the French Football Federation. Other examples include Zanzibar in CAF, Tuvalu in OFC and Northern Mariana Islands in AFC. These teams can compete in most continental tournaments (i.e Caribbean Cup, AFC Challenge Cup) but not always (i.e Zanzibar in African Cup of Nations). They can not participate in World Cup qualification.


Stateless people



The third group of teams features representative sides drawn from ethnic groups that have yet to gain significant control over a home state, or drawn from an ethnic diaspora. The Sami people of Lapland live in a distinct area of northern Scandinavia, yet fall under the control of four states. Nevertheless, they have organised a football association, and a representative team. 

Similarly, the Roma people have been strewn across Europe for centuries, with little hope of ever gaining a homeland, yet they have a fledgling footballing organisation to represent them in international competition. While representative teams that fall under this category perhaps have the least hope of ever gaining full FIFA recognition, they can take comfort from the experience of the Palestinians who, despite having no recognised state and having to play all their games outside even Israel, have been welcomed into FIFA and the AFC.

States


Nine sovereign states (Vatican City, Monaco, Tuvalu, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, Kiribati, and the United Kingdom) are not affiliated to FIFA. The United Kingdom is represented through its four constituent countries, and the other eight countries have or have had national teams that have played matches outside of FIFA.


Micronations


Micronations are entities that claim to be independent nations or states but which are not recognized by world governments or major international organizations. There are few of these in the non-FIFA world (e.g Sealand, Saugeais, Cilento) and they are controversial, with many observers not viewing them as 'serious' national sides.



Tournaments


The non-FIFA scene contains various tournaments between national sides, sometimes one off and sometimes held frequently. Below is a small list of some of such competitions - 


VIVA World Cup - Held biennially the VIVA brings together members of the N.F.-Board, the most recent edition was held in 2012 in Kurdistan with 9 teams contesting. The hosts ran out winners after defeating Northern Cyprus in the final, having lost at the last hurdle at the 3 previous tournaments. The next finals are scheduled for 2014.


Island Games - Held biennially by the I.G.A the football tournament features prominently in the Island Games. A range of islands compete from non-autonomous sides such as Rhodes and Orkney, to self-governing ones such as Jersey and the Falklands. Gibraltar's involvement is likely to come under the spotlight as they approach likely FIFA membership. The last edition was held in Bermuda in 2013.


Indigenous Peoples' Championship - Hosted by CSANF for non-FIFA sides in South America. The first edition was held in Chile in 2012 and was won by Easter Island.


Coupe de l'Outre-Mer - Created by the French Football Federation in 2008 for their overseas territories, it's held biennially in Paris. The most recent edition in 2012 was won by Reunion. 


ConIFA World Championships - A planned biennial tournament to be held by ConIFA for the first time in Sweden in 2014. Competing teams and the draw date are to be confirmed.

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