FIFA and UEFA to decide Turkish Cypriot team’s fate
Turkish Cypriots hope that meeting between football governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA, will bring them one step closer to leaving football’s international wilderness.
The Northern Cyprus team celebrate after beating the Crimea 3-1 in the final of last year’s ELF Cup. The Turkish Cypriot part of the Mediterranean team hosted the competition for non-FIFA members. Credit: Chris Burke.
On September 20, FIFA and UEFA sat down with the Cyprus Football Association and representatives of the island’s Turkish Cypriot footballing community to try and solve a four-decade long dispute between the two sides.
Turkish Cypriot clubs quit the CFA in 1955 to form their own league and went into international isolation in 1974, when Turkey invaded the northern part of Cyprus.
According to Cengiz Uzun, spokesman for the Turkish Cypriot FA, the CTFA, the meeting would have been held earlier but for a furore that erupted when English league one side Luton Town FC visited Northern Cyprus this summer.
Uzun told Play the Game: “We have been struggling for years to affiliate [to] FIFA but recently we have invited Luton Town FC to play against [our club] Cetinkaya but CFA put their objection to that game and the match couldn't be played.
“There was much trouble that time [but] FIFA was preparing to call both sides for a meeting for more than two years.”
The Turkish Cypriots isolation increased in 1983, when they declared themselves an independent country but relations with the mostly Greek Cypriots in the south have eased in recent years.
Turkish Cypriot players can play in the CFA’s leagues but in Turkey their players are classed as overseas players because Turkey classes Northern Cyprus as an independent country.
Turkey remains the only country to recognize Northern Cyprus’ independence and the Turkish Cypriots voted for a United Nations plan to unite the island through a form of devolved government not dissimilar to the UK.
This could also allow Northern Cyprus, which in the last two years has won three tournaments for non-FIFA members, to continue playing internationals.
Hope for the future
Reports state the meetings between Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot football associations were productive, with a follow-up meeting now scheduled for October 27 2007.
“I think we have achieved the maximum that we could today according to the circumstances,” Cyprus FA president Costakis Koutsokoumnis told Reuters.
“It is very delicate especially knowing how politicians can think and react but these talks were purely about football and how we can help the island in football terms.
“The atmosphere was excellent, there is no doubting the will that is there on both sides and I am confident something can be done.”
Steve Menary is the author of Outcasts! The Lands That FIFA Forgot, to be published by Know the Score on 27 September 2007. To read an exclusive extract from this book, please follow this link.
To read more about the book, please visit the 'Outcasts' homepage at http://outcasts-book.blogspot.com/
Steve Menary will be speaking on this subject at Play the Game 2007