Soccer paves way for reconciliation

Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot soccer clubs will compete for the first time in half a century later this month as a goodwill gesture for peace on divided Cyprus, top officials of both clubs told a news conference in Nicosia on Tuesday. The clubs – Nea Salamina from the Greek-Cypriot side, and Yenicami, hailing from the occupied north – will meet for a friendly match on March 26 at Ammochostos, the east coastal town that was divided following the Turkish invasion of August 1974. They went ahead with the plan after it was approved by the Cypriot Soccer Federation. Teams representing the island’s Greek and Turkish communities last met prior to the split, back in the 1954-55 season, in the Cypriot Soccer Federation’s official league competition. Nea Salamina and Yenicami have worked at developing active ties between the two clubs in recent months, both in soccer and other areas. The upcoming match is being planned as part of this overall effort. The Nea Salamina club, based in Ammochostos, has already made moves toward reconciliation with the rival Turkish community by adding two Turkish Cypriots to its roster over the past couple of seasons. The initiative came three decades after Turkish Cypriots had last played in the Cypriot league. Team officials told yesterday’s news conference that, in keeping with the occasion’s spirit, no measures would be taken to keep rival fans apart in the stands. Entrance will be free, they added. However, certain parts of the stadium will remain out of bounds for all fans because they currently do not meet safety requirements. A curtain raiser featuring veteran sides of both clubs will precede the main game.

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