Caribbean island takes FIFA to court to join world soccer

GENEVA (AP) — The tiny Caribbean island of Bonaire’s soccer federation challenged FIFA at sport’s highest court Wednesday seeking membership of the world governing body.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said a video-conference hearing was held for Bonaire to appeal against FIFA’s decision last September to reject a membership application.

The court did not set a target date for a verdict.

Victory in the appeal would set Bonaire on course to become FIFA’s 212th member federation, which would give it access to funding of $6 million spread over each four-year World Cup period. Smaller federations can get $1 million more for travel and equipment costs.

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FIFA declined to comment on the ongoing case.

Bonaire, with a population of 20,000 people north of Venezuela, was part of the Netherlands Antilles that was dissolved 10 years ago. It is now formally part of the Netherlands with the status of a municipality.

The island’s national soccer federation joined regional confederation CONCACAF in 2013, which fulfills one of the requirements of applying for FIFA membership.

However, FIFA’s legal statutes also say that only a soccer body “responsible for organizing and supervising football in all of its forms in its country may become a member association.”

The Dutch soccer federation has promoted the development of Bonaire soccer with FIFA.

Bonaire’s national team plays in CONCACAF’s Nations League competition, and placed second behind Bahamas in a three-team group last year. Home games were played in nearby Curaçao.

Curaçao and another of Bonaire’s neighbors, Aruba, also have historic Dutch ties and are members of FIFA. They are set to begin their 2022 World Cup qualifying games in March.

FIFA’s most recent new members, Kosovo and Gibraltar, joined in 2016. Gibraltar gained membership of European confederation UEFA and FIFA only after taking legal cases to CAS.

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