By Staff Reporter
Joan Laporta, former president of Spanish football powerhouse Barcelona, has said he supports ongoing efforts to merge the island’s two football associations.
Laporta, a lawyer, was recently in the north, where he met with the ‘deputy prime minister’ of the breakaway regime Serdar Denktash and with Hasan Sertoglu, head of the Turkish Cypriot football federation (KTTF).
During a news conference held in Kyrenia with Denktash and Laporta, the former announced a tourism promotion deal for the north concluded between the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ and Fashion TV. The TV channel are clients of Laporta’s law firm.
Speaking at the news conference, Laporta said he was in Cyprus in his capacity as a lawyer, but in comments added he was in favour of talks between the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) and the KTTF aimed at a merger.
Last year the CFA and the KTTF signed a landmark temporary agreement in Zurich which would see the Turkish Cypriot football federation become a member of the CFA as an association in accordance with CFA rules. An application from the KKTF for membership of the CFA is currently pending.
Turkish Cypriot teams withdrew from the CFA in 1955, following the beginning of the armed EOKA struggle for union with Greece. They formed their own association that same year.
As reported by Turkish Cypriot media, the former Barcelona boss noted that it was “unfair” that Turkish Cypriot youth teams are not permitted to compete against other countries.
Laporta said moreover a friendly football game between the north and Catalonia could and should be organised.
The 54-year-old lawyer and former politician was quoted referring to the breakaway regime as “northern Cyprus” – a move not likely to sit well with diehard fans of Nicosia club Apoel ahead of their Wednesday opener against FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.
According to the Greek translation of his comments, Laporta reportedly went on to say that “northern Cyprus” and Catalonia, both with aspirations for independence, should be treated no differently than Scotland, which holds a plebiscite on Thursday to decide whether to break off from the United Kingdom.
The Catalans themselves are planning a November referendum to vote on independence from Spain.
Laporta has held ambitions to enter Spanish politics after leaving office as president of FC Barcelona. He has in the past been outspoken about his political affiliations: he supports Catalan independence from Spain.