By Stefanos Evripidou
FOOTBALL’S MOST powerful figure, FIFA President Sepp Blatter has praised Cyprus for the efforts underway to reunite football on the island.
Speaking during the 64th FIFA Congress in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the head of the international governing body of football referred to the problems facing different countries, stemming from political or other reasons, and which affect football.
He referred specifically to the problems faced in Israel and Palestine, Kosovo and Serbia, and the moves to unify football on both sides of the dividing line in Cyprus.
According to the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) website, Blatter used Cyprus as a reference point, informing the FIFA Congress of the temporary agreement signed last November in Zurich between the CFA and the Cyprus Turkish Football Association (KTTF).
The CFA quoted, in Greek, Blatter’s comments before the Congress: “We are proud about what happened in Cyprus and the agreement reached. Cyprus is a country that is divided and through football, steps forward are being taken. The parties involved in Cyprus have approved this agreement and all we can do is applaud them,” he said.
Blatter made it clear that FIFA does not get involved in the politics of countries but only concerns itself with football. He also expressed satisfaction with efforts to find solutions between Kosovo and Serbia and Israel and Palestine.
The CFA and KTTF have been in talks for years to find a way to unite. In November 2013 they signed a landmark temporary agreement in Zurich which would see the KTTF become a member of the CFA as an association in accordance with CFA rules.
Both parties agreed on the setting up of a steering committee to work towards implementing the agreement.
The agreement also had the full support of President Nicos Anastasiades, who said at the time that the agreement was “a positive outcome that gave hope for the future”.
Despite coming under pressure from both sides, the heads of the CFA and KTTF, Costakis Koutsokoumnis and Hasan Sertoglu have ploughed ahead with a series of confidence-building measures to enhance trust between the two, ahead of the Turkish Cypriot federation’s application to join the CFA.
The CFA invited senior members of the KTTF to join them on a trip to Japan where the Cyprus national football team played Japan in a friendly.
Earlier this month, CFA head Koutsokoumnis found himself in hot water following a visit to the north, where he awarded the championship trophy to the winning team.
A picture of Koutsokoumnis at the event went viral and garnered a lot of negative response from sports websites that pointed out the absence of the CFA head on May 31 when the Cyprus championship was awarded to APOEL.
For the agreement to close, Sertoglu has to officially apply to integrate the KTTF into the CFA, and get the approval of the CFA General Assembly.
In an interview last Sunday with Kathimerini newspaper, Koutsokoumnis defended the agreement reached with the Turkish Cypriot association. He described it as a temporary agreement until a solution to the Cyprus problem could be found.
The last time Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot football teams came under the same umbrella was in 1954 before the struggle against British colonial rule.
Asked by the paper what would happen if the agreement collapses with the KTTF, Koutsokoumnis warned that if the CFA were responsible for the collapse, this would pose a big risk of Turkish Cypriot football adopting a separate status, noting that the global trend these days would be favourable to such a development.
The CFA head predicted the agreement to conclude near the end of Blatter’s term in office, by May 2015.
He said Blatter will most likely come to Cyprus by the end of this September to meet with the CFA and KTTF.