After the success of the 2014 edition of the Coptic Orthodox National Annual Football Association tournament (CONAFA), 2015 was always going to be an interesting year, with the news that the second edition of the tournament will be taking place.
Last year, nine teams gathered together in fellowship with Christ; this year a record eleven teams entered the tournament, making this the biggest Coptic football tournament to ever take place in the UK. This excitement was evident when the news confirmed that the Coptic Churches in the Republic of Ireland were prepared to travel to England to take part in the tournament.
The hosts of CONAFA, St. Mary & St. George Nottingham, finalists of the 2014 edition, were out to try and go one step further and lift the trophy in their own back yard. Expectations for the Nottingham team had risen after having unexpectedly won the 2014 COFTA tournament, annually held in Stevenage.
The only previous winners of the tournament, St. Mark’s of Kensington, London – were out to defend their title. Other teams included the likes of St. Mary & St. Mina, Manchester, a team who were very much looking forward to CONAFA. St. Mary & St. Mark, Birmingham were another northern team to enter, having been drawn in a group alongside a number of good sides. St. Mary & Archangel Michael, Golders Green – semi-finalists from last year’s COFTA tournament were also present representing the South. Other teams included St. Mary & St. Shenouda, Croydon, St. Antony, Rotherham as well as the Eritrean Orthodox team. No tournament would be complete without the hosts of the annual COFTA tournament, Stevenage, who lined up in Group B alongside a number of solid teams.
The new editions to this years tournament, were (as mentioned) the Republic of Ireland, and St. Mary & St. Abraam, Brighton – who had previously set a record of 4 years without losing a single match; until September.
Saturday was an exhausting day for many players. With eleven teams present, a large number of games had to be played. With St. Mary & St. George, Nottingham and St. Mary & Archangel Michael progressing from group A, and St. Mary & St. Abraam, Brighton and St. Mary & St. Mina, Manchester progressing from group B, the semi-finals on Sunday were extremely well set up.
A fully-packed liturgy on Sunday morning was a perfect example of what the weekend is all about; with gathering together in one body in Christ being the whole point of the weekend.
The matches on Sunday went ahead on schedule with Brighton and Golders Green progressing into the final, with the favourites, Brighton winning after a narrow 1-0 victory.
Regardless of how far each team made it in the tournament, there was a real sense of fellowship among everyone. It was a pleasure to see such a good level of discipline and fellowship throughout the weekend and we are hoping CONAFA will be back in 2016 with even more familiar faces!
Special thanks should go out to all the representatives and captains for organising their teams, as it would not have happened without your dedication and hard work.