The defence ministry on Friday opened up to the possibility of exempting race car driver Vladimiros Tziortzis from his compulsory military service.
In a statement released to the Cyprus News Agency, the defence ministry said that exemptions for prominent sports people in Cyprus were granted in the past to the likes of sailor Pavlos Kontides, tennis player Marcos Baghdatis, shooter Giorgos Achilleos and footballers Pieros Sotiriou and Michalis Konstantinou.
Last Tuesday, Defence Minister Michalis Giorgallas rejected Tziortzis’s request to be exempted from military service, a decision that raised concerns, considering the driver’s promising career and the possibility of him competing in the US-based Nascar series, one of the most popular motorsport categories in the world.
After Giorgallas’ decision, Tziortzis’ lawyer George Tsielapos sent a letter to the defence ministry saying that exempting promising sport stars from conscription has been common practice in Cyprus since 2016.
“The situation raises questions about whether the efforts of young individuals who promote and honour Cyprus abroad will be recognised or easily disregarded under the current political climate,” the letter said.
However, a turn of events on Friday saw the defence ministry more inclined to accept the race car driver’s request.
Defence ministry spokesperson Andreas Stylianou said that Tziortzis has been granted deferments from the National Guard since 2015, the first one granted by the ministry itself and the later ones by the entire Council of Ministers.
Nevertheless, Stylianou reminded that Tziortzis will still be obliged to fulfil his military service, which has remained pending for the past seven years.
One solution, according to the spokesperson, would be for the driver to carry out his duty in the summer and grant him the possibility to be absent for certain periods of time in order to allow him to take part in car races abroad.
“In addition to that, we would provide him the adequate facilities to train while fulfilling his duties in Cyprus,” he added.
He reiterated that both the defence ministry and the National Guard are fully supporting the athlete’s endeavours.
Stylianou finally said that the defence ministry also understands the athlete’s contractual obligations with his team and his sponsors and that it will not stand in his way.
“We have done the same for other great athletes in the past and we have not hindered anyone’s career,” he said.