The 23rd of October 2021, was a landmark day for West Papua football since it marked the first time in almost two years that the national team was able to play an official match. The success of this day has re-invigorated the players and organisation of the Football Association of West Papua to enthusiastically plan and prepare for the coming matches and tournaments in the next months.
The press conference
The day started with a press conference where the representatives of the Football Association West Papua, President Simon Sapioper and Secretary Jeroen Zandberg, and the representatives of the Katanga association, Minister for diplomatic relations Yves Uriël Nawej-Daems, Press and communication for the EU Mrs. Gaby Mutaka, and Culture and economy for the EU Mr. Ghyslain Kishiba explained the history and struggle of their nation and the activities of the football associations. West Papua has been a member of CONIFA for almost two years while Katanga is a new applicant. A lively question & answer session with the audience followed this presentation.
West Papua forms the western part of the island of New Guinea. The abundant natural resources make it a hotspot for economic activity and even greater potential. The territory is home to the Papuans who have lived on their ancestral lands for millennia and who strive for greater self-determination and recognition of their cultural and human rights.
Katanga is a territory in Central-Africa which was a fully independent state from 1960 until 1963 when it was incorporated in the Congo. It is a region with a volatile, yet proud history and home to more than six million people. It plays a vital role in the global economy due to the extensive mining of rare-earth metals which are used for electronics. The people of Katanga are proud of their history and see it as the foundation for their future.
The covid-19 pandemic, which started in the early months of 2020, has had an enormous impact on the ability to play and organise matches and although covid-19 has not yet disappeared there is again the opportunity for organising public sporting events.
On Saturday 23 October 2021, the West Papua football team walked onto the main field of Quick The Hague to play a match against the visiting team of Katanga. The West Papua football team was composed of a new selection of players compared to previous matches, since those players had taken up various other commitments. The new selection was supplemented with additional players who support the Papuan cause.
The match, which was scheduled to start at 14.00, kicked off 45 minutes late due to logistical problems. Six players of the Katanga team, who had to come from Germany, were delayed, whereas several other players who had planned to come from Africa did not receive their visa in time. This caused some reshuffling of positions in the Katanga line-up with new players who had to step in to be able to start the match until the late arrival of the other players.
Supporters could view the match in the stadium of Quick The Hague and via a live-stream that was broadcast through Mycujoo/Elevensports, which was watched by a great number of interested viewers who could for the first time hear the Katanga national hymn be played alongside the West Papua national anthem at a football match. The match on ElevenSports is here.
Due to the late arrival of many of the official Katanga players, the scoreboard could literally not keep up with the balls that landed in the net of the Katangese goal. Despite the heroic efforts of the energetic goalkeeper the double digit figures on the scoreboard kept rising. Due to some players arriving in time for the second half of the game the odds were slightly tilted to a more balanced equilibrium.
In the final quarter of the match, the Katangese team was actually able to put pressure on the West Papuan defence and had several close calls with the keeper and the goal posts. Their final efforts were to no avail and the Katangese team was unable to land a ball in the net of the opponent. This means that the first goal by the Katangese team has yet to be made. However, this will surely happen soon in an upcoming match against another CONIFA team or when the West Papua team will play them for a re-match next year to balance out the score of this match’s ’22 – 0’ result. The re-match will undoubtedly see a different outcome when the teams of West Papua and Katanga are again in their original line-up after having overcome the difficulties of restarting activities after the extended covid-19 lockdowns.
Despite the difficulties that both teams had in organising their line-up for this match, the event was a resounding success and a perfect opportunity to show the world a vital and positive image of West Papua and Katanga. Many fans enthusiastically cheered for the actions of the players from each team, which brought camaraderie and friendship on the field and in the stadium.
Thousands of miles apart, Katanga and West Papua, have different histories and futures, but are linked by similar ideals of greater self-determination and recognition of their cultural and human rights. Through a peaceful sports dialogue on the field the fans of both teams openly cheered for their team, the national anthem and the flag.
The day was closed with a social gathering of the players and fans of both teams in the restaurant of Quick The Hague where they joyfully looked back at the day and forward to new challenges and opportunities.