NICOSIA: Sixty years after the Turkish and Greek football communities in Cyprus split an administrative rapprochement is in sight writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Imminent agreement is due to be signed to bring the CTFA back into the CFA which is the ethmically-divided island’s formal and official representative at the world and European federations, FIFA and UEFA.
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 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 in 2012-13 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, in December 2012, 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.
On November 5, 2013, FIFA headquarters in Zurich was the venue for the signing a provisional arrangement for the organisation of football in Cyprus.
The document was signed by Cyprus Football Association (CFA) president Costakis Koutsokoumnis and Cyprus Turkish Football Association (CTFA) president Hasan Sertoğlu. FIFA president Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini confirmed this arrangement as witnesses.
Under the arrangement, the CTFA would become a member of the CFA as an association in accordance with the CFA’s statutes and regulations. Furthermore, the CFA would continue to be a member of FIFA and UEFA as well as the governing body responsible for organising, servicing and administering football in Cyprus and for all international football activities in the country.
A steering committee was created to work towards implementing the arrangement which is about to be formalised.
However the prospect of Greek and Turkish Cypriot teams playing in a unified league remains an aspiration rather than an imminent accomplishment.