Karpatalya vs Szekely Land Report and Interview With Béla Fejér

Karpatalya were crowned CONIFA World Champions on Saturday after a penalty shootout victory over Northern Cyprus, but it was their game vs Szekely Land on Thursday night that will live longest in the memory. Tamas Cserep was there

It was in a small local ground nestled behind a row of detached houses, on a Thursday afternoon in the sleepy South London suburb of Carshalton, that the two semi-finals of the ConIFA World Cup would take place. An independent tournament set up for teams representing unrecognised territories and minorities, the competition would first see Northern Cyprus take on Padania, whilst the second match would be a derby pitting together the ethnically Hungarian minorities of Ukraine and Romania – Kárpátalja and Székely Land respectively.

The first fixture was a close-run affair, but Northern Cyprus’ quality shone through in the latter stages of the game; goals from Turan and former Ireland U21 international Mehmet turned the match around from 2-1 to 3-2, sealing their qualification to the final. London’s Turkish diaspora were in full voice throughout the match, and just like in previous games, they created a fiery atmosphere.

The Kárpátalja and Székely Land fixture was a unique one as both teams represent a Hungarian minority group. Fans found it difficult to choose which side to support, but Székely Land chants became more dominant as Hungarians of this area are more common in London than Hungarians of Kárpátalja, who originate from Ukraine.  Throughout the match Székely Land created a lot more chances, but failed to capitalise. On the other hand, Kárpátalja were patient and much more clinical and by the 75th minute they were 3-0 up. There was a late resurgence by Székely Land in in the last 15 minutes, scoring two goals in quick succession, but a counter in extra time allowed Peres to slot home, securing a 4-2 victory for Kárpátalja.

Amidst the clouds of red, white and green created by the flares, the fans were singing traditional Hungarian folk songs and chants. After the game finished, Székely Land fans congratulated Kárpátalja for their triumph and both teams and fans sang the Hungarian national anthem together. This was a fixture that allowed the Hungarian minority groups to express unity and solidarity for each other.

I was able to carry out a quick post-match interview with Kárpátalja captain and goalkeeper Béla Fejér:

Karpataly vs Szekely Land

How did you experience the world cup so far?

Very good so far. I would not have thought of this even in my wildest dreams. We wanted to win more and more games and get to the final. Thanks to God, we got there. This is team work.

What was the goal originally?

I don’t know. Each game I play, whether for club or country, my aim is to win. Everyone else’s goal in the team is the same.

The majority of Hungarian fans were supporting Székely Land, how did this make you guys feel?

I cannot contest this. We are from one blood. The way they supported them, in their hearts they supported us well. We are all Hungarian.

Do you have any players’ performances which have impressed you?

Well, this is a team sport. I can only say team work. Players start and sit on the bench, but in my opinion the whole process is team work.