While FIFA's tournament saw Germany and Argentina vanquish the rest of soccer's global elite to reach the final, the 'World Football Cup' brought together 12 teams that had no chance of being invited to the party. Internationally unrecognized or long-extinct nations such as South Ossetia, Darfur and Kurdistan competed in a world cup for the stateless.
In the picture above, a team representing Abkhazia, a disputed territory that broke away from Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, competes in a penalty shoot-out against Padania, a team advocating secession for the north of Italy.
Occitania, which roughly encompasses the southern half of France, as well as Monaco and smaller parts of Italy and Spain, has been recognized as a linguistic and cultural concept since the Middle Ages, but has never been a legal or a political entity.
The tournament was set up by CONIFA, which describes itself as a global umbrella organization for "sportingly isolated regions" which are not recognized by FIFA. Founder Pers-Anders Lund says it offers players the chance to give pride and dignity to people who are not represented on the world stage. "There are 80 million Tamils and 40 million Kurds who don't have a national team to support in Brazil,” he explained.
One player, seeing no future back home, decided to abandon his team and try his luck as an illegal immigrant in Sweden. The missing player's teammate Abdulrhman empathized: "He saw how life is here and compared it to what we have back in the refugee camps in Chad. I just go back because I have to take care of my mother."
. Ostersund's stadium can seat 5,000, but it was almost empty for most of the matches. The city is located in the historic region of Sapmi, or Lapland, the ancestral territory of the indigenous Sami people.
Ellan Vannin, or the Isle of Man, is a self-governing British Crown Dependency located in the Irish Sea. Its team helped raised funds to enable the players of Darfur United to travel to the tournament, and the two teams cheered each other on from the stands.
CONIFA said it had received a letter from the Azerbaijan soccer association requesting that Nagorno-Karabakh be kicked out of the competition. Azerbaijan claims that the disputed region is part of its territory.
. The Kurdistan bench watches its game against Padania. It was won by Padania on penalties.
A small, but significant proportion of the population in Syria and the lands comprising ancient Mesopotamia identify themselves as Aramean-Syriacs. They are Syriac Christians by religion and still speak Aramaic.
"I thought that winning the World Cup would have helped us to be part of FIFA," he said. "But this was our first tournament, our national team just played once against Abkhazia in Sukhum last September. We will train and I really hope we will win the next one!"
. A corner kick comes in during the final between Countea de Nissa and Ellan Vannin.
The County of Nice, an ancient territory stretching across parts of present-day Italy and France, ceased to exist in 1860 when it was annexed by France. But on a soccer field a few hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle, its sporting representatives reveled in the glory of being crowned champions of the world.
-- Jacob Balzani Loov and David Arnott