Cyprus Mail

2013: Mandela’s sporting message falls on deaf ears

World record for the Moufflons

By Peter Stevenson

No real surprise that football always steals the limelight from other sports on the island. The national rugby team’s world record, for instance, passed by virtually unnoticed.

But 2013 has been a mixed year for football. The world players’ union FIFPro warning to professionals to think twice before signing to play for clubs in Cyprus was balanced by better news: the reunification of football on the island.

FifPro’s announcement hardly came as a shock to people that have known the ins and outs of clubs on the island and the common practice of leaving players unpaid because there was a lot more hope at the beginning of the season than there was by the end. There are far too many cases where players have come to clubs with the promise of a lucrative contract, but once a couple of results go against the team and they are deemed to be ‘not performing’ as well as they should be, salary gets withheld. It is the arrogance of some chairmen to think that professional footballers would not report that to their union and that news wouldn’t spread beyond these shores of their corrupt practices.

Of course the wonderfully cooperative and always helpful Cyprus Football Association (CFA) failed to comment on the matter, sweeping it under the rug just as it had all of the warnings sent by UEFA regarding match-fixing. It’s a wonder half the teams managed to meet the financial fair play criteria set out by football’s governing body although I wouldn’t put it past them to have fudged some of the numbers concerning the teams hoping to play in European competitions.

It truly amazes me how the bigger clubs like Omonia and Apoel have managed to only break even for so long despite possessing the lion’s share of support and income from benevolent benefactors or millions in income from competing in the Champions League.

On November 5 in Zurich a landmark deal was signed between the top brass of the CFA and the Turkish Cyprus Football Association (TCFA) to reunify football on the island, confirming the opinion of the late, great Nelson Mandela.

“Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers,” he said.

That has not rung more true than in Cyprus where our politicians fumble around for a joint statement, trying to please their voters or their coalition partners. The two football associations have made it look relatively easy.

Under the arrangement the CTFA will become a member of the CFA as an association in accordance with CFA statutes and regulations. The CFA will continue being a member of FIFA and UEFA. It will also remain the governing body responsible for organising, servicing and administering football in Cyprus as well as any international football activities in the country. Both parties agreed on the setting up of a steering committee to work towards implementing the agreement.

Even so, it didn’t look like it was going to be plain sailing when in the immediate aftermath of the signing in Zurich, Hasan Sertoglu, head of the TCFA appeared to have led people to believe that the deal, as it stood, would not be signed by the clubs in the north. This was not the case and it was unanimously approved by all the clubs in the north on November 29.

According to Mail sources, Sertoglu was doing this to throw the hardliners in the north off the scent and make them believe that he was against any deal. The tactic does appear to have worked in the north but unfortunately the government controlled areas have their own hardliners who are difficult to shift.

Former CFA and Apoel chairman Christos Triantaphyllides warned of the risks of signing such an agreement and tried hard to link it with the Cyprus problem.

“Football cannot and should not have been forced to accept a fait accompli before a complete solution is found to the Cyprus problem which is still at a very delicate stage,” he said.

Because our politicians cannot seem to find a solution to the Cyprob that means everyone should suffer along with them. So much for creating hope where once there was only despair. On a tiny island that is currently divided, and within those two halves divided again into left and right, this one beacon of light – sport – appears to have evaded many commentators.

It’s almost as if the media will only report on an event in detail and at length if it’s negative. They absolutely ate up the Eurogroup meetings in March for example.

Cyprus are the current world record holders in rugby for consecutive wins, and football on the island has been reunited despite almost forty years since the island’s division. These are two ground-breaking events for a small island. Yet neither received the publicity it deserved. Good news doesn’t sell. Especially when it’s presented as not even being good news. After all we are a proud footballing nation that has been brainwashed to a large degree to hate our northern brothers.



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