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Meet the Halifax chairman behind God’s own county football team

Yorkshire International Football Association
Yorkshire International Football Association

Yorkshire’s new ‘national’ football team has been cleared to compete in global tournaments, with sights set on the European Championships next year.

The team’s application to become part of CONIFA (Confederation of Independent Football Associations) was confirmed at the weekend, meaning they are eligible to line up against countries too small to join football’s major governing body, FIFA.

Yorkshire International Football Association's Phil Hegarty is interviewed.

Yorkshire International Football Association's Phil Hegarty is interviewed.

This means YIFA - or Yorkshire’s International Football Team - could play national teams including Greenland, Tibet, Northern Cyprus and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Phil Hegarty from Halifax, the creator and chairman of YIFA said: “It’s fantastic, it’s a very difficult thing to get into, some people see it as inferior but getting the entry requirements are not easy.

“It’s a huge step for us, the first of many.

“We could have gone on playing unaffiliated teams but this just legitimises what we are trying to do and puts in a position to do bigger and better things.

Yorkshire International Football Association

Yorkshire International Football Association

“It’s going to get better for us, we want to play, host and win these big tournaments.”

This summer’s CONIFA World Cup, to be played in London, has come too soon for the new Yorkshire team which needs to begin picking up ranking points and qualify for such tournaments.

However, next year’s European Championships are a possibility. Invitation-only trials took place at the team’s home, Hemsworth Miners Welfare FC, on Sunday and management staff are now busy whittling down the list of Yorkshire-born players for the squad to play the team’s very first game against the Isle of Man on January 28.

Mr Hegarty says interest in tickets for the game is on the rise and will cost £10 each, £5 concessions.

They can be bought on the gate unless they sell out beforehand, with an online ticket-buying system currently being set up on YIFA’s website.