Disputed citizenship

Olympiakos basketball club yesterday hastily withdrew the brand-new Cypriot passport of American point guard Marquis Perry after the Cypriot government officially affirmed on Tuesday that it had neither received an application for such a passport nor had issued one. At the same time, Piraeus prosecutor Grigoris Peponis, acting on the information in an article published yesterday in Kathimerini and which reported the Cypriot government’s reaction, has launched an investigation, asking a lower court judge to determine the validity of the passport presented by Olympiakos to ESAKE, the association of professional basketball clubs, which runs the Greek Basketball League championship. The prosecutor asked for all relevant official documents related to the issuance of the controversial passport and instructed the judge to take sworn depositions from Olympiakos and ESAKE officials, as well as from a representative of Greece’s basketball federation (EOK) which is responsible for attesting to the validity of a player’s citizenship claim. The withdrawal of the submitted passport by Olympiakos was followed by the following statement: «Regarding the dispute concerning the issuance of a Cypriot passport to the player Marquis Perry, Olympiakos basketball club announces that it has made all necessary moves to confirm the issuance process and will soon provide the appropriate solution.» This baffling language barely hides the fact that the publicity given the issue has seriously embarassed the club. While the matter has not yet been legally resolved, it is unlikely that Perry, a former St Louis University student who was recently cut by the NBA club San Antonio Spurs, had heard of his new homeland until earlier this week, when Olympiakos decided to acquire center Ernest Brown, a former NBA player who had been relegated to playing for NBDL, the NBA’s recently constituted «development league.» With Olympiakos already having two non-EU nationals on its roster, however, Brown could not play for his new team, with which he signed a contract on Tuesday, unless a player was released or another solution was found. That is how Perry came to be in possession of a Cypriot passport. This is not an isolated case. Dozens of American players play in European leagues with European passports. However, the Cypriot government’s official denial has focused the issue on how these passports are obtained. If the probe goes deep enough, it is likely to reveal some quite unsavory practices.