Conifa World Football Cup - Bruce Grobbelaar, borrowed boots and the tournament of ‘forgotten nations’ all at Haringey Borough FC

PUBLISHED: 15:56 04 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:11 04 June 2018

Tuvalu v Matabeleland at Coles Park in the 2018 Conifa World Football Cup. Photo: Liam Coleman

Tuvalu v Matabeleland at Coles Park in the 2018 Conifa World Football Cup. Photo: Liam Coleman

Liam Coleman

The Conifa World Football Cup took place at Coles Park at the weekend and had everything from Bruce Grobbelaar to borrowed boots and glorious sunshine.

Photo: Liam ColemanPhoto: Liam Coleman

You might not have realised it but this weekend Haringey Borough Football Club hosted three world cup games and helped create a little bit of history.

The last time that a football World Cup was held in England was 1966 and we all know what happened there..

But as the England International team was cooling down after a win in their run up to the biggest sporting event in the world, there were a host of teams taking part in a different tournament in London, in borrowed boots, some travelling over 9,000 miles, and others which only managed to take part after raising enough money for flights through crowdfunding.

Over the weekend Coles Park - home of Haringey Borough FC - hosted three of the group games of the 2018 Conifa World Football Cup.

Cult hero Bruce Grobbelaar taking selfies with fans at half time. Photo: Liam ColemanCult hero Bruce Grobbelaar taking selfies with fans at half time. Photo: Liam Coleman

There were journalists from all over the world at the non-league ground and hundreds of supporters who had come to watch their un-affilliated nations take part in a piece of history.

This is the third Conifa World Cup - the World Cup for the “forgotten nations” - which gives states, minorities, stateless peoples and regions unaffiliated with FIFA the opportunity to put on the colours that they feel a strong connection with and represent where they call home.

So from Friday through till Sunday teams from all over the world travelled to play at Coles Park.

First off on Friday afternoon was Barawa v Ellan Vannin - the team from the Isle of Wight - and it was the team from a port in Somalia that ran out 2-0 winners.

Tuvalu v Matabeleland team sheet with Bruce Grobbelaar named on the bench for Matabeleland. Photo: Liam ColemanTuvalu v Matabeleland team sheet with Bruce Grobbelaar named on the bench for Matabeleland. Photo: Liam Coleman

Next up on Saturday and Sunday were games in Group C, that saw two thrashings as Szekely Land - who represent a region in Romania’s eastern Transylvania - won 4-0 against Tuvalu - the fourth smallest nation in the world - and then 5-0 against Matabeleland - from Zimbabwe who were making their Conifa debut.

But for me the highlight of the weekend was the wooden spoon game in Group C as Matabeleland took on Tuvalu in the glorious sunshine on Sunday night.

Matabeleland ran out 3-1 winners, leaving Tuvalu bottom of the group with a goal difference of minus 14 - but such is the beauty of this tournament, that this wouldn’t be the last we would be seeing of them.

Players from a group of tiny islands in the South pacific that had flown over 9,000 miles to take part would be able to fight again, as they will play in a number of play-off matches to determine whether it be 10th, 11th or 16th place that they finally finish in.

Tuvalu v Matabeleland at Coles Park in the 2018 Conifa World Football Cup. Photo: Liam ColemanTuvalu v Matabeleland at Coles Park in the 2018 Conifa World Football Cup. Photo: Liam Coleman

Way over 300 fans were at the game on Sunday night, and many of which might have heard about the tournament on the radio, in the papers or in one of Paddy Power’s - sponsors of the tournament - brilliant Facebook or Twitter adverts.

And if they were anything like me then they left with a huge smile on their face.

After not just watching some good football but having their hearts warmed from the fans of both teams.

Ma-ta-bele, Ma-ta-bele, Ma-ta-bele, Yamma yamma yamma, Ma-ta-bele, Ma-ta-bele.

Tuvalu v Matabeleland lining up befor kick-off. Photo: Liam ColemanTuvalu v Matabeleland lining up befor kick-off. Photo: Liam Coleman

I spent the whole bus journey home with this song stuck in my head, the fans - some of whom had travelled with the team from Zimababwe and others who lived in London - didn’t stop singing for 90 minutes and really brought the game to life.

Let’s not forget that yes, it is a tournament on an international stage and the standard of football might not have been the greatest, but I think that this tournament has already shown it is about more than the football, and that was reflected in the story behind Matabeleland’s number 96.

European Cup Winner in 1984, six times top flight winner, three times FA Cup winner, and a cult hero in his own right.

Bruce Grobbelaar.

He is Zimbabwean by birth, but he had been signed up as the goal-keeping coach for Matabeleland, and after their first choice goalkeeper was sent off in the opening game, Bruce - famous for his wobbly legs - could be seen doing star jumps and warming up as after 15 minutes their reserve keeper went down.

You would have been forgiven if you thought it was written in the stars and at some point it might well be - Bruce comes on as a sub, saves a penalty in the final minute to send his side through - but that wasn’t to be on Sunday night.

This was a night not to be forgotten though if you were a Matabeleland fan, as the celebrations carried on into the car park after the final whistle as they rejoiced as a nation to celebrate their first tournament victory.

But don’t worry, if you are worried you might have missed your chance because you have one last chance to watch another World Cup game at Coles Park, as the ninth and tenth place play-off match will be taking place on Saturday, June 9 at 3pm. So if I was you I would go and watch and make history in Haringey.

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