The Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) today announced that Artsakh (also known as Nagorno-Karabakh), a de facto state in the Caucasus, will host the 2019 European Football Cup.
The tournament will be held in June 2019 in Stepanakert, the capital. Exact dates will be announced soon.
"This is a fantastic opportunity to build on the momentum of the 2018 Paddy Power World Football Cup,” said CONIFA President Per-Anders Blind. That tournament, hosted in London in June, saw unprecedented fan and media interest in CONIFA. Over 400 journalists were accredited from almost every major international media outlet, CONIFA’s Twitter feed recorded over 6 million impressions and 250,000 people watched the live-streamed matches. 3,000 people attended the final at Enfield Town FC, which saw Karpatalya beat Northern Cyprus on penalties.
"After the incredible success of London 2018, we are excited to be taking our next tournament to a beautiful and relatively undiscovered part of the world,” continued Blind. "During several official delegation visits to Stepanakert, CONIFA has received incredible hospitality. We are confident that participating teams, fans and travelling media will enjoy the same experience next year.”
Artsakh gained de facto independence following the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994, a conflict which also involved Armenia and Azerbaijan. It remains unrecognised by the international community. The Artsakh football league has prospered since 2009, and the Artsakh Football Federation was founded in 2012.
"Artsakh has been a member of CONIFA since our inception in 2013, and participated in our first-ever tournament in Sweden in 2014,” explained CONIFA’s European Director Alberto Rischio. "Given their long-term involvement in the CONIFA family, we were delighted when the Artsakh Football Federation first expressed interest in hosting the tournament.”
12 teams will contest the tournament. 2017 European Football Cup winners Padania, runners-up Northern Cyprus and 2018 Paddy Power World Football Cup winners Karpatalya will join the host team as automatic qualifiers. The remaining eight teams will be determined during CONIFA’s annual general meeting in January.
"It will be a wonderful celebration of sport, culture and friendship,” said Minister of Education, Science and Sport of the Artsakh Republic, Narine Aghabalyan.
CONIFA is the international football confederation for teams not part of FIFA. Its members include states, unrecognised states, regions, minority groups and sports-isolated territories. CONIFA is a strictly politically neutral charity, and is run by volunteers.
Further details about the 2019 European Football Cup will be released shortly.