Four out of five players playing in the Cyprus football league this year were foreigners, a 15-per-cent spike on the previous year’s numbers, the association of Cypriot footballers (Pasp) said on Friday, citing data released by the Football Observatory of the International Centre of Sports Studies (CIES).
According to Pasp, the figures show that the situation is getting worse every year, both with regard to the number of foreigners playing in first-division clubs and the average age of players, as well as the clubs’ tendency to replace a large part of their rosters every year.
In the observatory’s latest analysis, released earlier this month, the Cypriot league features the most foreign players by far, and ranks second-to-last among ageing leagues and roster turnover – the average time a player stays on with a particular team.
Most alarming, Pasp said, was the average playing time of non-Cypriot footballers.
In 2016, Cyprus topped the list with 65.4 per cent foreign players, but 2017 was even worse, with the percentage rising to 80.2.
Second on the list was Turkey with 73.3 per cent (an 11.3-per-cent bump from last year) and England with 61.2 per cent (0.8 per cent less than last year).
In contrast, only 15 per cent of available playing time went to non-Serbians in the national league, with Ukraine in second place with 18.2 per cent and the Czech Republic in third with 23.8 per cent.
Among the top-ten individual teams across Europe with the most playing time allotted to foreigners were Cyprus, with Apollon Limassol topping the list with 98.9 per cent, Anorthosis Famagusta in second place with 95.3 per cent and AEK Larnaca third with 91.5 per cent. Champions Apoel ranked sixth with 88 per cent and Pafos FC eight with 87 per cent.
The rest of the top-ten were Galatasaray (90.6 per cent), Chelsea (90.4 per cent), Karabukspor (87.8 per cent), Besiktas (86.9 per cent) and Ludogorets (86.7 per cent).
“Unfortunately, the numbers regarding the participation of international players in Cyprus remain tragic, since we hold the top spot in total and the three top individual teams are Cypriot,” Pasp chairman Spyros Neofytides said.
Cyprus also ranks high on ageing leagues, with the national league being the second-most ageing in Europe. The fourteen division-one clubs have an average age of players of 28.46, second only to Turkey, where the average age is 28.64.
On average, the oldest team in Cyprus is AEK, at 31.97 years old, with Apoel (29.67) second, Anorthosis (29.65) and Apollon (29.44) third. Doxa Katokopias is the ‘youngest’ team in the league with an average age of 25.4.
On roster turnover, Cyprus averages 1.17 years, ranking second only to Romania’s 1.11.