Cyprus soccer eyes reunion after 60-year divorce

Turkish Cypriot soccer officials on Monday vowed to press ahead with attempts to reunite with the Cyprus Football Association, (CFA), triggering a political storm on the ethnically-split island.

In a controversy running to the heart of the highly-charged division of Cyprus, the Cyprus Turkish Football Association (CTFA) told soccer governing body FIFA on Monday they had launched a process to eventually become a member of the Greek Cypriot CFA.

A senior Turkish Cypriot official blasted the move “suicide” for the future of soccer in the isolated Turkish Cypriot breakaway state and urged the association to reconsider.

But CTFA president Hasan Sertoglu told a news conference on the Turkish side of Nicosia, Cyprus’s partitioned capital, they were forging ahead with their reforms.

“Today an era in Turkish Cypriot football is closing, and we are doing what we believe is right,” he said.

Turkish Cypriot sports minister Serdar Denktash was quoted in local media on Monday as describing the move “outrageous.” He threatened to cut funding to soccer clubs if they went ahead, media reported.

But Sertoglu responded: “This is not a one-man show. I have the full support of the (CTFA) executive committee.”

“This is not a political issue, we are doing this for the future of our youth,” he said, referring to the present isolation of Turkish Cypriot soccer.

Ethnic Greeks and Turks have lived separately for decades with the football authorities splitting in 1954 and Turkey invading the island 20 years later.

The Turkish Cypriot breakaway state is recognized only by Ankara, while a Greek Cypriot government effectively runs only the south and is internationally recognized as the sole legal authority on the island.

Without any formal affiliation to FIFA, the CTFA cannot compete in international competitions, reflecting the political isolation of the breakaway state.

The CTFA’s decision to change its statutes, and put them for ratification to its members “as soon as possible” comes 17 months after an initial agreement was signed in Zurich in November 2013 with CFA chairman Costakis Koutsokoumnis in the presence of FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini.

Under the terms of the Zurich agreement, the CTFA is to apply to be a member of the CFA, which will now mean Turkish clubs and players coming under the jurisdiction of the CFA which would then recognize the CTFA as one of its associate members.

“This is another clear confirmation of the CTFA decision, to regain our place, with all rights and obligations in the

CFA,” Sertoglu said in a letter to FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke on Monday. [Reuters]

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