Thousands of fans offer heroes’ welcome to Anorthosis Turk-beaters

NICOSIA (AFP) – Anorthosis Famagusta received a hero’s welcome yesterday upon returning from Turkey after beating Trabzonspor in a politically charged European Champions League qualifier. Thousands of fans greeted the team as they landed at Larnaca Airport following Anorthosis’s 3-2 aggregate victory over Trabzonspor after losing 1-0 in Turkey. The win – in the first soccer fixture against a team from Turkey – is being hailed as an historic triumph for Cypriot sport. Trabzonspor, runners-up in the Turkish league last season, had been overwhelming favorites. There was chanting and flag waving as the players received flowers when they emerged from the arrivals lounge. Many fans went to welcome the Anorthosis players after all-night street parties across the government-controlled Greek-Cypriot south. Cars bedecked with Greek and Cyprus flags filled the main avenues of every town with horns blaring. The scenes were reminiscent of the euphoria that greeted Greece’s Euro 2004 triumph in Portugal. «Anorthosis have made history and united Cyprus where politicians have failed after 30 years of division,» Marinos Kolokassides, 53, told AFP. There was room for only one story in yesterday’s Greek-Cypriot press. «Turks humiliated,» said the nationalist Machi. Right-wing Simerini ran the headline: «Great lady tames the beast.» Anorthosis are also known as the great lady. And mass-selling Phileleftheros said: «Cyprus celebrates triumph,» while opposition paper Alithia had «Trabzonspor conquered» on its front page. Communist paper Haravghi just said: «Well done, boys.» The club also won plaudits from every political party and received a congratulatory message from the government. Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said he watched the game on TV and was «overjoyed» by the result. «We are delighted to have made a lot of people very happy and we are very proud to have qualified to the next round of the Champions League,» said Andreas Panteli, president of Anorthosis. The semi-professional Cypriot team will now play Scottish champions Rangers in the final qualifying round next week. No Cypriot team has ever qualified for the Champions League group stage. Turkey and Cyprus have no diplomatic ties owing to Cyprus’s partition in 1974 when Turkey occupied the north of the island in response to a Greek-Cypriot coup aimed at union with Greece. Anorthosis are supported by Greek Cypriots who were displaced from the eastern city of Famagusta (Ammochostos) by Turkey’s 1974 invasion and play «in exile» in the southeast coast resort of Larnaca. The politics of the Cyprus problem has ensured that Cyprus-Turkey sporting contact is rare. There have been some meetings in volleyball, tennis and handball but on the soccer field it has been non-existent.