We doubt many have heard of the VIVA World Cup, but if you have then you’ll also be aware that Northern Italy, Padania, have dominated the tournament since its inception. Frazer Lloyd-Davies tells us about what exactly the VIVA World Cup is, and how Padania’s dominance might be just another example of size and wealth overcoming the competition.
July 11th 2010 and over 18 million UK viewers alone have watched Spain lift the FIFA World Cup for the first time since they entered the tournament at Italy 1934. The world stopped as football fans across the globe fixated their collective attentions upon the supposed pinnacle of world football, yet only six days previous in Gozo Stadium, Xewkija (Malta) – Padania, the widely accepted name for the Po Valley in Italy, lifted the VIVA World Cup for the third consecutive year running. History will also tell you that Italy were the first team to win back to back FIFA World Cups, coincidently in 1934 and then four years later at France 1938. It is then when you really start to wonder; why are Spain considered to be so good?
The VIVA World Cup is in many ways not so different from the tournament the world of football has come to know, and was first played in Occitania in November 2006. Organised by the New Federation Board, a football association for teams and nations not affiliated with FIFA, the tournament is divided into two group stages before dispersing into knockout rounds. With the first competition being won by Sapmi after a 21-1 drubbing of runners up Monaco, Padania have gone on to win the remaining three tournaments. Following an agreement with the Island Games Association it has now been decided that the tournament will be held every two years, the next being in 2012 in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, mirroring the alternating occurrences of the Euro’s and World Cup seen in mainland Europe.
Enough on the relatively short history of the tournament though, let’s take a closer look at Padania, whose women’s team also went on to win the second women’s VIVA World Cup last year. As previously said, Padania is the widely accepted label for the Po Valley in Italy, and with an approximate population of just over 33.5million people it is perhaps possible to suggest where their dominance comes from. The team is promoted by Italian political party Lega Nord, whose regionalist ideologies draws a support believed to be around 150,000, with players frequently selected from the countries lower leagues. One recognised all time top scorer, Stefano Salandra has scored four goals for the nation and is known to have played for U.S.C. Colognese who currently sit in 5th of Serie D/B but further information is scarce and hard to find.
Returning to the comment concerning Padania’s dominance of the VIVA World Cup, does such a rule over the association strike similarities with the recognised world of FIFA? It is widely accepted that teams such as Manchester United, Barcelona and Inter Milan have come to dominate their respective competitions, albeit it at a club level, due to a distinct advantage over the other competitors, and whilst this is often down to their financial muscle I am beginning to wonder whether such control is being seen here too. As the VIVA World Cup is an international competition there can be no assumptions of superior wealth, yet when you consider the comparative sizes of such entrants, and therefore the ‘catchment area’ for available players you have to question whether another team will usurp Padania at the top of the NF association, or whether in 2012 they will simply be champions elect before a ball is even kicked.
As has been previously said the population of the Po Valley area is believed to be around 33.5milliom. Runners up at the last tournament Gozo have a population of 30,000, Occitania 14 million, Two Sicilies 8.5 million, Provence 4.5 million with Iraqi Kurdistan coming closest with approximately 25 million residents. With most countries or international football teams coming under the FIFA association I find it hard to believe that another nation will challenge Padania to the title in 2012. I cannot admit to having watched any of the VIVA World Cup matches in by gone years but looking in on the tournament makes for scary reading in my eyes – perhaps the steady de-popularisation of the beautiful game we currently hear about is happening due to inevitability. Despite striving for fairness, equality and fruitful competition has it become apparent that there will always be far superior teams and nations? If you discount Uruguay’s triumph in 1950, Argentina is the smallest nation to lift the FIFA World Cup with a population of only around 40m – not too much greater than that of Padania.
The VIVA World Cup is never likely to surpass, or even amount to anything close to that of FIFA or any of its tournaments, but the issue of large teams and their dominance is worryingly reflected in what is only a newly founded competition. In 2012 the United Kingdom will be gearing up to the host the Olympic Games but Padania will be searching for a fourth world title. However valued their success is perceived by fans of the VIVA variation of football, or that of International fans supporting nations affiliated with FIFA, it has to be said that to win any tournament three years on the bounce is an incredible feat. Upon looking back over my notes I now think to myself whether or not I have been too critical over a football setup centred on bringing International to seemingly exiled nations. Perhaps the VIVA World Cup should be considered for a more prominent feature in the worldwide game?