TURKISH AND GREEK Cypriots have signed a landmark deal to bridge a divide that predates the island’s political separation.
Under the agreement Cyprus’s two football associations have agreed to join forces and follow a “road map” towards full unity in the sport. But no firm details of the plans have emerged and the president of Turkish Cypriot football said the deal did not “satisfy” him.
It was signed on Tuesday at the Zurich headquarters of FIFA, world football’s governing body, by Cyprus Turkish Football Association (CTFA) president Hasan Sertoğlu and Cyprus Football Association (CFA) president Costakis Koutsokoumnis.
“We live in a world in which it is more difficult to unite than to divide, which means that today is all the more exceptional,” said UEFA president Michel Platini, who helped broker the agreement with his FIFA counterpart Sepp Blatter. “It is a historic moment for Cypriot football, and I would like to congratulate the presidents of the two associations, who have shown exemplary courage and perseverance.”
But in comments carried by Turkish Cypriot media on Tuesday evening, CTFA president Hasan Sertoğlu cast doubt on the draft agreement by commenting that it “did not meet our demands. We will continue our struggle to improve it.”
He continued: “The document’s content may not have satisfied us, but I have always said I will present it to my general assembly. We will continue work at that meeting – which will be held concurrently with a Greek Cypriot meeting – to resolve the missing points.”
Mr Sertoğlu said he objected to articles 1 and 4 of the agreement, but did not comment on what they contained.
Turkish Cypriot media reported Tuesday’s agreement will create a joint governing body to oversee the forthcoming steps, which could include a joint domestic league and permission for Turkish Cypriot players to play for Cyprus’s national team.
A UEFA statement said it would see the CTFA become an associate member of the CFA, with all clubs registered under the CTFA automatically becoming indirect members of the CFA.
If a joint league is created, it would be the first time domestic football is united on the island in nearly sixty years, longer than the island’s 40-year military division.
A football league has existed in Cyprus since 1934, with all communities playing together for over 20 years. Selection of the national team was commonly arranged to ensure proportionate representation from the Greek, Turkish and small Armenian community, the Cyprus Mail said.
But following the beginning of armed conflict between the two communities the Turkish Cypriot teams withdrew in 1955, forming their own league and football association.
It left the Cyprus FA as the only football association on the island recognised by UEFA and FIFA.
North Cyprus’s isolation from international competition has meant it has not been able to enjoy the success of its southern counterparts.
APOEL FC, a team based in the capital Nicosia, has enjoyed particular success in recent times, having reached the quarter finals of last year’s Champions League – a first for a Cypriot team.
Talks for a political union between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities have not produced concrete results since a referendum in 2004.