Desert Fire (2016)

Stateless teams compete in ‘Desert Fire’ (2016)

Working with the Bertha Foundation, The Guardian newspaper commissioned 12 short documentaries with global impact. Desert Fire covers a team representing Iraqi Kurdistan at the 2016 ConIFA World Cup.

The ConIFA tournament for stateless teams

The ConIFA tournament is outside of FIFA and is organized for stateless nations and minority ethnic groups. In 2016, there were 12 teams from places you might not have heard of, such as Székely Land (Hungarians in Romania), United Koreans of Japan, Sami people of Scandinavian Lapland, Padania (Italy), Somaliland, and the Sochi home team of Abkhazia (in Georgia). If you read the wikipedia page for the 2016 tournament, you realize that it can be difficult to even travel to the ConIFA World Cup when you are stateless.

Soccer while living under violence

Directors Jack Losh and Sebastien Rabas are young men who cover international humanitarian issues. This film captures the nationalist pride carried by the players and staff, as well as their moments in search of normalcy. Coach Khasraw Gurun (Khasraw Groon) was a Kurdish player during the Saddam regime and unaffectedly describes Saddam’s execution of players.

This football film contains footage from Iraqi Kurdistan’s practices and their games in the tournament. Some of the players, such as goalkeeper Sarhank Mohsin, also play or have played for the FIFA-recognized Iraqi National Team.

Desert Fire and Baghdad Messi, the other Iraqi Kurdish film I have reviewed, both make you aware of the violence that people endure in that region of the world. But Desert Fire shows how soccer can be a way to express nationalist and ethnic pride without violence.

Other films about stateless teams

A similar stateless nation theme is covered in the 2003 documentary, The Forbidden Team, which follows an international friendly between Greenland and Tibet. The 2006 film Goal Dreams covers the Palestinian National Team which, even though Palestine is a stateless nation, is allowed to compete in FIFA.

For more in-depth coverage, read Jack Losh’s article for The Guardian.

6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6