The Island club have been named as one of 16 qualifiers for the biennial tournament for independent, non-Fifa ‘nations’ after ending 2019 as the second-highest ranked European outfit – making a trip to Skopje from 30 May-7 June a reality after initial doubts over their involvement.
A venue-switch from war-torn Somaliland to the North Macedonian capital reopened the door for manager James Scott and co last summer – after he initially ruled out travel on safety grounds. The school teacher may now be prepping geography lessons for his players alongside on-field coaching tips.
Squads hailing from self-proclaimed states in Australia, Chile and Zimbabwe are included in the draw, plus others based in the USA, Ukraine and Algeria.
Chagos Islands, who PoJ met in the slim-lined Heritage Cup in June 2019, are also in as ‘global ticket’ wildcards for an event which promises to build on the success of the 2018 World Cup in London.
PoJ president James Blower said: ‘There has been a huge amount of interest from people all over the world and we’ve got high hopes that it will be a similar thing in North Macedonia [to London 2018].
‘The Heritage Cup didn’t go as we’d hoped in terms of full participation but if you look at the 2018 World Cup, it was run pretty successfully and there were some really strong attendances. There were over 3,500 at the final and it got a lot of coverage. That’s what put it on our radar.
‘ConIFA has got quite a big following now. For the Heritage Cup there were football fans – some “ground-hoppers” – travelling from all over the country to watch and “MottysMic” [Christofer Walker] became aware of Jersey football there. He now commentates on quite a few Jersey Bulls games.’
Blower added: ‘The standard of football is high – we know there are some better teams in there and we want to make sure we’ve got a strong side. It’s not the type of tournament you take a second-string team along to but we’ve had enough positive feedback from the senior players on our list … they’re really up for it and excited by it.’
More in Monday’s JEP.