Eleven million Cornish people around the world are to be represented on the international stage, after the county were inducted as the newest members of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA).
The Kernow Football Alliance were officially ratified by CONIFA in November, 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 and sports isolated territories.
CONIFA is the international governing body for non-FIFA affiliated football associations, with their watershed moment coming in London this past June when thousands of spectators flocked to the city to immerse themselves in the 2018 World Football Cup, won by Karpatalja (representing the Hungarian minority in Carpathian Ruthenia).
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 AGM.”
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.”
Fixtures will be released in due course as Kernow FA look to amass enough ranking points to qualify for the 2019 CONIFA European Football Cup, to be held in Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh).