As last-gasp Brazil and miracle-on-grass USA sharpen their spikes and test out their most theatrical grimaces of mortal pain in preparation for the Confederations Cup Final in South Africa, a few cities in northern Italy play host to one of world football’s strangest and most diverting sideshows: the VIVA World Cup.
This micro-tournament welcomes undeclared nations, unrecognized states, vaguely defined linguistic regions…basically, it seems, anyone who has a flag, eleven dudes and a half-plausible speculative-politics story to tell can give the VIVA a shot. This year’s hosts, for example, are the “Padanians,” a bunch of Italian minor leaguers drummed up by the Northern League, a separatist party with creepy right-wing associations. (Why couldn’t they rock it old school and call themselves Cisapline Gaul?) Meanwhile, the Iraqi Kurds also field a team—hard to complain about that, really, given their region’s de facto autonomy. Occitania and Provence both entered sides, despite the fact that they appear to overlap geographically. The Sapmi team, from the northern vastness formerly known as Lapland, seems to suffer a long-term erosion of form, given that they won the Cup a few years ago and now find themselves losing group-stage matches to Provence. Gozo—well, who knows what to make of a place called “Gozo”? One would have thought a country like Malta a bit too small for internal cultural divisions, but Gozo goes (sorry) to show that one should never underestimate the human capacity for fractiousness.
I love weird and semi-nonsensical stuff like this. Past VIVA Cups set me dreaming about the possibility of a Cascadian national team—still a brilliant idea, ahead of its time. Still, if we really are reaching the end of the nation-state era, perhaps the VIVA World Cup’s organizers are the true visionaries.