The Padania Football Team representing the eight northern regions of Italy referred to as Padania which is an alternative name for the Po Valley. The term Padania was mainly popularised by the right wing separatist party Lega Nord who used it as a possible name for an Independent State in Northern Italy, due to this Padania regionalism has carried very strong political connotations (incidentally the Lega Nord version of Padania contains more regions than the team at the World Football Cup represents). However, the first politician to consistently use the term Padania was Guido Fanti, who was a leading member of the Italian Communist Party and was President of Emilia-Romagna from 1970–1976.
The football team has had wide success over the last ten years, Padania won the Viva World Cup three times in three years in 2008, 2009 and 2010, they have also won both ConIFA European Football Cups so far in 2015 and 2017. They finished fourth at the 2016 World Football Cup and made the quarter-finals in the first edition of the competition in 2014.
Biggest Win: Darfur 0–20 Padania, 1st June 2014.
One to watch: Marius Stankevičius, 36 year-old defender currently playing for Serie D side A.C. Crema 1908. A well-travelled veteran with over 350 appearances at club level and 65 international caps for Lithuania. Former clubs on his playing CV include, Sampdoria, Lazio, Hannover 96, Córdoba, plus loan spells at Sevilla and Valencia. He is a two-time Lithuanian player of the year and played in the 2009 Coppa Italia Final. He received a call-up to the Padania national team for this tournament due to currently playing in Northern Italy.
The Székely Land national football team is a team representing the ethnic Hungarians of Székely Land in Romania. The Szeklers make up around half of ethnic Hungarians in Romania and regularly seek to achieve great autonomy for the region.
First international: Székely Land 2–3 County of Nice, June 2015.
Biggest win: Ellan Vannin 2–4 Székely Land, 6th June 2017.
Biggest defeat: Northern Cyprus 3–0 Székely Land, 29th May 2016.
One to watch: Csaba Csizmadia, 32 year old defender currently playing for Budafoki MTE and has previously played for Hungarian giants Ferencváros. He also gained 14 international caps for Hungary in the year’s 2007 and 2008. It is also worth mentioning their manager Róbert Ilyés is also part of the Székely Land playing squad in this tournament, a 44 year-old midfielder who has made over 450 appearances and has won league titles in both Romania and Azerbaijan.
The National team of Tuvalu is the only team at this tournament whose National FA is a member of a regional confederation. Tuvalu are members of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) but are not members of FIFA. Meaning that they are eligible to play in the Pacific Games and the OFC Nations Cup, but not eligible for the FIFA World Cup. The country itself in a Polynesian island nation lying around midway between Hawaii and Australia. The population is just over 10,500 and the land area of the islands is 26 square kilometres. Tuvalu became fully independent in 1978 and in 2000 became a member of the United Nations.
A coming threat for the islands is climate change. Tuvalu is only 15ft above sea level and rising sea levels could pose a threat to the state’s existence. A sea level rise of 20–40 centimetres could make the islands uninhabitable in 100 years time.
First international and biggest defeat: Tahiti 18–0 Tuvalu, 29th August 1979.
One to watch: Alopua Petoa, 28 year-old striker who has scored 8 goals in 10 appearances for Tuvalu which included a debut hat-trick against Samoa on 22nd August 2011 and then another hat-trick 5 days later against American Samoa. The lack of fixtures for the national side has been the main cause for a lack of goals since then. His last international goal was scored on 14th December 2017 in a Pacific Mini-Games fixture against Tonga.
Matabeleland is a region of western Zimbabwe divided into three provinces, Matabeleand North, Bulawayo and Matabeleland South. The region is named after its main inhabitants the Nedebele People. It is a region that has had many difficulties during their recent history including many abuses by the Mugabe Government against its people. To say they are underdogs is an understatement; The team is yet to play a game, has only had one training session to prepare for the tournament and face a huge test in their opening game against European Football Cup Champions Padania. However, they do have one high profile backer, former Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar will be their goalkeeping coach for the tournament, possibly ideal when the keepers might be facing a busy day tomorrow. It’s fair to say that these have become many neutral’s favourites in this tournament before it has even begun. There have been some well publicised struggles in trying to fund the team to be able to get to this tournament and even making this tournament is already an achievement. Manager Justin Whalley speaking to Sky Sports stated that “The best moment was getting that phone call to say the players have got through customs and immigration, and they’re here,” this was after having the “biggest low” a week ago where there were “some major question marks around the flights, and it really looked like we might not make it.” The team has really captured the public’s imagination, but now is the time to prove that they are not pushovers, I can only hope that they will have many Londoners coming to support them over the next 10 days.