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Fever pitch

Fever pitch

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The tournament uniting footballing lawyers from around the world

By Craig Stephen

The World Cup for lawyers is celebrating its 20th edition in mid-2020, with organisers hoping that more countries, such as New Zealand, can get teams together to compete in a tournament that prides itself on mixing football with fun.

The tournament was first held in Marrakech in 1983 and will be returning to the inland Moroccan city from 30 May to 7 June 2020.

Tournament co-founder Vincent Pinatel, a lawyer based in Marseille, says the inspiration for the inaugural competition came simply from the popularity of the game among the legal profession in Europe.

“My friend, Pierre Lusinchi, and I had an idea of a world football cup while we were watching a game on TV in 1982. Indeed, as a lawyer passionate about football, I knew that several of my colleague lawyers were also crazy about football and I thought ‘let’s try to organise an event which will make them feel as if they were professionals with the objective to play against lawyers from all around the world’,” says Mr Pinatel.

His colleague Mr Lusinchi also remains heavily involved in the competition.

While there was modest interest in the initial tournament, it was enough to suggest further contests could be on the cards.

“For the first edition in Marrakech, we managed to gather 14 teams which was not a lot, but it definitely launched the event and throughout the years it has kept on growing to reach 140 teams in 2018, ie, more than 3,000 lawyers from everywhere,” says Mr Pinatel.

“The event gathers lawyers from Indonesia to Brazil, from Nepal to Argentina, from Mongolia to Denmark but also from small countries such as Burundi, for example, and this is very important for us.”

Regional events

With Mundiavocat occurring every two years, there was a gap that has been filled, since 2015, by regional events – Eurolawyers, Asialawyers, Americalawyers, Africalawyers and a Francophone one.

And Mr Pinatel says it is not just enthusiastic Sunday league players who take to the pitch; there have been some classy players on the field over the years, including former professionals.

“We actually had a few players who became lawyers after a football professional career such as Guglielmo Stendardo who played for Lazio and Atalanta and who is now a lawyer from the Roma Bar Association and let’s say it, you notice he was a professional when you see it on the pitch.”

Naturally, he notes, there have been some outstanding highlights from the 19 events that have taken place so far.

“I’m proud of having created, with Pierre Lusinchi, an event that still exists after more than 35 years. Beyond pride, I have one amazing and unforgettable memory and that was when in Marrakech in 1983 the Harti Stadium was crowded as thousands of spectators came to watch the opening game. Can you imagine? You are a lawyer passionate about football and thousands of people come to watch you play? It was just as if they were all pros playing the real World Cup.

Can NZ join the party?

Mr Pinatel says all nations are eligible to compete at Mundiavocat and he is hopeful that practitioners from New Zealand can muster up at least one team to become the latest nation to join the party.

The 2018 edition featured 140 teams from 37 countries. Each team plays four to six matches and the matches last a ‘mere’ 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the category.

Mundiavocat is an open tournament with six separate competitions – classic, master (over 35), legend (over 45), super legend (over 55), and 5-a-side for men and women (no age limit).

There are many lawyers here who play football or have done so, and in LawTalk 911, October 2017, we created an imaginary team of practitioners who had played for New Zealand.

In all, Italy has the most competition titles with eight, double that of Brazil, with Argentina on three.

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