AEL boss plays down tension of Fener game
AEL Limassol Chairman Andreas Sofokleus (C) speaks at a press conference and plays down the pressure ahead of his team’s Europa League match against Fenerbahçe, saying that the game will hopefully cause no crowd trouble. AFP PhotoUnveiling Turkish flags will not be a problem during the AEL Limassol vs. Fenerbahçe match, but Northern Cypriot flags will not be allowed in the stadium.
Speaking at a press conference on Oct. 22, AEL Limassol chairman Andreas Sofokleus put an end to the flag controversy before the team’s Europa League game, saying there will be no restrictions on Turkish flags and that flags of UEFA-affiliated countries would not be banned.
However, since the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not a member of the European football’s governing body, no Turkish Cyprus flags will be allowed in the match.
Given the political problems between Turkish and Greek Cypriot governments, games between teams from the two states have been historically tense.
Last week, a Fenerbahçe fan group forced fans to sign a declaration promising not to unveil Turkish or Turkish Cypriot flags during tomorrow’s Europa League match. However, a second Fenerbahçe fan group said that fans would not be stopped from unveiling flags.
Sofokleus played down the tension before the game.
“Politics should not be involved in sports,” he said at the press conference. “I hope the game will go on without any problems.
“We have no aim to prevent the flags of any nations that are officially recognized by the UEFA,” Sofokleus said, adding that AEL fans will only bring the team’s flags, not the Greek Cypriot flag.
Some 300 police officers will reportedly be in attendance during the match as part of stadium security measures.
Last year, the Galatasaray women’s volleyball team was subjected to debris thrown from the stands during a game with Apollon Limassol, while there were similar attacks during a Pınar Karşıyaka men’s basketball team’s match against APOEL.
Turkey’s EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış had said Turkey would pursue even the slightest problem at the match in international institutions.
“People have concerns regarding the game, as Turkish teams have faced several difficulties from the Greek Cypriot side in the past games,” Bağış said, adding, “Greek Cypriots know very well that we don’t hesitate to carry even a slightest problem to international institutions.”
“This game is an opportunity for the Greek Cypriot administration to prove whether it is a state or not because past mistakes have shown that Greek Cypriots are not even a tribe, let alone a state. Now they have an opportunity,” Bağış said to Anatolia News Agency.
Tomorrow’s game has been declared a high-risk match in a statement released by Fenerbahçe.
“The game is listed in the high-risk category by the UEFA [European football’s governing body]. As a result, our club is responsible for having its supporters sign a statement that they would stand by UEFA codes for away supporters,” the statement read. “Furthermore, our supporter groups in Cyprus took the initiative to add a few more articles to the statement.”
Fenerbahçe started its long road to Limassol today due to diplomatic problems between the two countries. There are no direct flights from Turkey to Greek Cyprus, while passage from the Turkish part of the island to the Greek part is also not allowed for the Turkish team.
Fenerbahçe will fly to Rhodes today and stay a few hours in the Greek island before taking a flight to Greek Cyprus. After landing in Larnaca Bay, the team will be taken to Limassol by bus.
AEL Limassol sacks coach before Fener tie
NICOSIA - Agence France-Presse
Greek Cypriot champion AEL Limassol announced on Oct. 22 that coach Pambos Christodoulou is to leave the club by mutual consent just days before a crunch clash with Fenerbahçe.
Christodoulou lead the team to a 2-1 league win against Salamina at the weekend, ahead of tomorrow’s game against Fenerbahçe - billed as one of the biggest in the club’s history. A statement on AEL’s website said the board had “ended its cooperation by mutual consent with the team’s coach and his technical staff.”
Although it did not elaborate on the reasons for his departure, the club “warmly thanked” Christodoulou for his contribution in “bringing joy” to the fans.
Christodoulou took AEL to their first league title for 44 years last season but failed to make it to the Champions League group stage after losing to Anderlecht at the last hurdle. According to press reports former Porto player and Braga coach Jorge Paulo Costa Almeida is being lined up as a swift replacement.
AEL is fourth in the table following a string of below-par performances.
In its last Europa League outing, AEL was hammered 5-1 away to Marseille.