Even as soccer’s World Cup verges on taking over the planet’s sports consciousness for a full month, a vastly smaller (and infinitely stranger) international footballing event took place last week on the Maltese island of Gozo. (Don’t feel bad, geographers—I had to look the place up, too.) The VIVA World Cup featured teams representing global powerhouses like Occitania, Iraqi Kurdistan, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In last Saturday’s final, Padania defeated Iraqi Kurdistan by a score of 1 to 0.
What? Well, exactly. The VIVA World Cup, founded in 2006, basically exists to provoke puzzlement and curiosity. Unlike FIFA’s 32-team extravaganza featuring nothing but boring, old-fashioned nation-states (and England), the VIVA championship is open to unrecognized nations, loosely organized ethnicities, and language groups unknown to soccer’s conventional structures.