PV Sports Desk : Karpatalja won the alternative CONIFA World Football Cup 2018 on Saturday in a remarkable triumph for a side drafted in as a last-minute replacement shortly before the tournament kicked off.
The team, representing ethnic Hungarians living in modern-day Ukraine, beat Northern Cyprus 3-2 on penalties after a goalless draw to win the biennial competition for football’s unrecognised nations and other outsiders.
The 16-team tournament was staged at non-league grounds around London and the final at Donkey Lane drew thousands of spectators, including flare-firing hardcore Hungarian football fans.
The 10-day competition has proved a colourful, more grassroots counterpart to the FIFA World Cup, which starts in Russia next week.
Karpatalja were a late replacement for another side representing Hungarians living beyond the country’s modern-day borders.
Felvidek, now part of Slovakia, pulled out just a few weeks before the tournament began.
“We were planning a holiday for everybody and they called us to say we could come here,” midfielder Alex Svedjuk, who scored Karpatalja’s third penalty, told AFP.
“It was like a holiday present and that we have won is so excellent.
“We didn’t expect this but we are very happy.”
Carpathian Ruthenia, in the far west of Ukraine, was mostly in Hungary before World War I. It is home to around 150,000 ethnic Hungarians.
“I hope it puts Karpatalja on the map. Now people will know where Karpatalja is,” said Svedjuk.