A group of Turkish Cypriot football fans who bought tickets to the Cypriot national team’s match against Belgium were not allowed by police to take their seats, and were instead diverted to a separate stand.
Nicosia’s GSP stadium, which hosted the match, saw more than 12,000 fans in the stands for Cyprus’ inaugural game in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday night. Among them were some Turkish Cypriots.
But tweets in response to one posted by Disy leader Averof Neophytou revealed some inconvenient facts about their treatment by authorities.
“The presence of Turkish Cypriots at our national team’s game against Belgium at GSP was positive,” Neophytou tweeted.
The tweet received a number of replies, mostly by frustrated Turkish Cypriots who attended the game and were asked to abandon their allocated seats among the general crowd of spectators in favour of an isolated spot.
“So why were they separated from the Greek Cypriots?” advisor to Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci Deniz Birinci asked.
“They wanted to sit in the Cyprus side.”
Another protest came from Ahmet Muratoglu, an associate of Turkish Cypriot politician Sibel Siber.
“Do the Turkish Cypriot fans not have the right to watch the game wherever they want?” he tweeted under a photo of the segregated fans.
In a more extensive post on Facebook, a man named Tekin Birinci said Cypriot police asked the Turkish Cypriot fans who arrived by bus to give up their assigned seats and sit together in the stands behind the goalposts.
“Today we came with three buses of Turkish Cypriots from the north to watch the national team game of Cyprus vs Belgium,” he wrote.
“Unfortunately Cypriot police said they want to protect us and want us to sit not at our own seats but together behind the goalposts. The thing is many of us already moved out and got their seats, and also many people came with their own vehicles, and already mixed up with the other Cypriot fans. We tried to explain to the police that we are here to watch the game and not to do any politics, but they said this is the order they got. Anyway, some of us accepted to sit there together just not to miss the game, which was about to start, but many of us, including me, [are] still sitting together in the crowd and watching the game peacefully.”
Tweets in response to the complaints – some empathetic, others confrontational and even incendiary – were also posted.
“This is sad,” posted one user, in response to Tekin Birinci’s account.
“Go to Turkey to watch games,” one user hurled at Muratoglu.
The stadium’s executive director Fivos Constantinides said on Wednesday that he was the one who made the decision, after being informed by the police at the last minute that Turkish Cypriots aboard three buses were about to arrive to watch the game.
“I am sorry the Turkish Cypriots felt singled out, and I understand how they felt,” Constantinides said.
“However, I had to ensure their own safety and make sure the match was played without incident, as it was an international game for which the stadium would be liable to UEFA.”
The director noted that the necessary arrangements will be made so that the upcoming matches of the Cypriot national team can be attended by organised Turkish Cypriots, too.
According to Politis, only the Turkish Cypriots who arrived via the arranged buses faced a problem – those who travelled in their private vehicles faced no incident.
But asked whether similar arrangements would have been made for the fans of any Greek Cypriot team who arranged to travel to a national team game by bus, Constantinides said no.