In what was described as a historic move, Nicosia football club Omonia has been taken over by a private company following a decision at a general assembly of its members on Tuesday.
The decision, however, has irked its organized fans, Gate 9, who said they will not support the new state of affairs and will create a new Omonia that will start from the lower leagues.
It is the first time in the club’s history that it will be run by a company managed by Stavros Papastavrou, a US-based businessman.
Gate 9 members had opposed the move from the onset, arguing that if it went ahead Omonia would lose its character as the “people’s team.”
In a separate assembly on Tuesday, the majority of Gate 9 members voted against the club’s decision. Instead, they said they will found a new Omonia, which will have to start at the lower leagues.
The fans’ arguments are based on historical events going back to the club’s creation — Omonia was founded in 1948 by footballers who played for archrivals Apoel at the time.
In what was a troubled political period, the players had refused to sign declarations denouncing their leftist ideology resulting in them being ousted. The same happened in other so-called nationalist clubs that viewed Greece as the motherland at a time when Cyprus was under British rule. At the time, a bitter civil war was being fought in Greece between the Allied-backed government army and the communists.
Despite the difficulties in the first years, Omonia grew, as did its support, to become the biggest club on the island, even surpassing Apoel during the 1980s.
It was, however, controlled by Akel, which had always posted its own people to the club’s administration.
After having gone without a champions’ title for several years, the team was taken over, with Akel’s blessings, by contractor Miltiades Neophytou.
It did win the title in 2010-2011, and two cups after that, but financial profligacy, bad management, and failure to advance in Europe, took their toll and the club went into freefall.
Things came to a head in the last season, which Omonia fans said was the worst in its 70-year history.
Feeling the pressure and watching voters leave over its handling of the issue, despite denials that it did not run the team, Akel sought to find a solution that could perhaps be successful in re-establishing the club at the top.