THE PRESIDENT of the Cyprus Football Association (CFA), Costakis Koutsokoumnis, could not have imagined the hysterical reaction his rather naive decision to wear a red football shirt, with Turkey’s national symbol of the star and crescent, would provoke. If he had, he would have told his Turkish hosts that he was suffering from a hamstring injury and could not play in the fun match organised for the football association bosses attending a regional meeting in Istanbul. If he felt obliged to join his colleagues for the match, he might have at least declined to pose for the team photograph.
Was he really unaware of what would happen on social media if just one person got hold of the photograph? Is he so out of touch with Greek Cypriot society that he thought he could get away with posing in Turkish football shirt, that people have laugh about it and move on? Nobody was laughing about Koutsokoumnis’ faux pas yesterday. There was universal condemnation.
Football clubs, supporters’ groups, political parties, the media all had a go at him. Even the government took a stand, issuing a statement which said it “believes the actions of any federation or clubs or their representatives, must not disregard Greek Cypriot sensitivities, based on the current state of affairs”.
This was the most restrained reaction. One supporters’ group accused the CFA president of “high treason” while many called for his immediate resignation, a demand also voiced by some of the political parties which also wanted a public apology.
Koutsokoumnis tried to defend his spectacular own goal on his Facebook page, again showing a lack of awareness – there was nothing he could have said to appease his critics, who turned themselves into an angry football crowd baying for his blood. And the crowd hysteria was in a way given the thumbs up by the government which could not resist taking a stand on a matter that it had nothing to do with.
The irony is that there many much better reasons why Koutsokoumnis should step down as president of the CFA, which he has been running rather ineffectively for more than a decade. Cyprus football is plagued by allegations of corruption and match-fixing, but the CFA boss has failed to undertake a clean-up, preferring to ignore them. His only concern seems to be keeping the clubs happy so he could hold on to his position. How ironic it would be if he is eventually forced to resign for the wrong reasons.