ZURICH: The two football federations in Cyprus appear to be edging towards an agreement which could set an example – albeit in a complex situation – for the Greek and Turkish communities writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
A statement issued by both the neighbouring federations in the partitioned island has signalled that the signing of a document of intent under the auspices of FIFA and UEFA is around the corner.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has invited leaders of both federations to Zurich “to discuss and finalize a “provisional arrangement for football in Cyprus” based on the FIFA and UEFA Statutes.”
A joint statement added: “It is expected that at the end of the deliberations the two delegations will sign a document outlining the steps for the progress of football in the whole of Cyprus, with the approval of FIFA and UEFA.
“The arrangement will need to be ratified by the general assemblies of both the Cyprus FA and the Cyprus Turkish FA. The meeting will take place on November 5 and will be presided by the president of FIFA [Blatter] in the presence of the president of UEFA [Michel Platini].”
The original Cyprus Football Association was established in 1934 by six Greek Cypriot clubs and two Turkish Cypriot clubs. It joined FIFA in 1948 and Greek and Turkish Cypriot clubs played together in an all-island league until 1955.
In 1955, during the anti-colonial struggle which sparked its own tensions between the communities, the CFA suspended Turkish-Cypriot clubs from its competitions to avert – so it claimed – clashes in the stadiums.
The barred clubs created their own federation and Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot clubs have not played together since.
That division was cemented further after the Turkish invasion of the north of the island 1974, a split which has resisted all international efforts at achieving reunification. The south has a population of 1.1m with a further 290,000 living to the north of the United Nations-controlled buffer zone.
The north has earned international opprobrium as a safe haven for fugitive criminals such as, most notably, the disgraced businessman Asil Nadir. However pressure for some sort of resolution has increased as Turkey has edged closer to the European Union of which Greece, of course, is a member.
The football status of Greek-Cypriot Cyprus, as a financially-rewarded sports member of FIFA and UEFA, was enhanced last season by the surprise progress of APOEL Nicosia to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The club’s exploits earned new visibility and self-confidence for the CFA.
Hence last December talks were undertaken in Nicosia between the CFA’s Kostakis Koutsokoumnis and Hasan Sertoglu, president of the Turkish Cypriot Football Federation. Both men confirmed an intention to unify football on the politically-divided island. A further, reciprocal meeting was then held in the north early this year.
Blatter may also discuss with the Cypriots concerns – expressed most recently by players union FIFpro – about Cypriot clubs’ failures to honour contracts and payment agreements.