Cyprus Mail

Turkish Cypriot footballer makes history with Omonia debut

turkish cypriot footballer cropped
Ozler became the first Turkish Cypriot since 1957 to play for Omonia's first team

17-year-old Turkish Cypriot footballer Tahsin Ozler made history on Thursday night by becoming the first Turkish Cypriot since 1957 to play for the club’s first team.

Ozler, who came through the ranks at Omonia’s youth academy, came off the bench to play the last half an hour of the side’s 3-0 Coca Cola Cup victory over Digenis Ypsona.

He is just the second Turkish Cypriot to have played for Omonia’s first team, with the other, Ibrahim Aziz, having featured in the 1956-57 season.

Ozler’s debut marks a rare show of unity on a Cypriot football landscape which has faced division for longer than the island’s political scene.

The Cyprus Football Association (CFA) had initially been a bicommunal organisation, with Turkish Cypriot teams featuring in its competitions. Nicosia-based Turkish Cypriot club Cetinkaya even saw trophy-laden success in the early 1950s, going toe to toe with the likes of Apoel.

However, Turkish Cypriot teams were banned from playing at many Greek Cypriot-owned grounds in 1955, and thus set up their own association, the CTFA, with competitions separate from that of the CFA.

Previous efforts had been made to bring the two communities’ football associations closer had ended in failure.

Lefke TSK, of Lefka, applied to join the CFA in 2011 but eventually withdrew their application after the CFA accepted on the condition that they play all their games in the Republic.

In 2013, an agreement was signed between the CFA and the CTFA which aimed to unite the island’s football scene, but its terms were never implemented.

Ozler’s debut, therefore, could be seen as a break in a decades-long chain of unfulfilled promises in Cypriot football bicommunality.

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