Turkish Cypriots move on to end isolation in football

Turkish Cypriots move on to end isolation in football

Turkish Cypriots move on to end isolation in football

Players of Camialtı (black&whites) and Doğan Türk are seen struggling for the ball in a Turkish Cypriot league game in this file photo. CTFA chairman Sertoğlu says a new era is beginning.

Aiming to end 60 years of sporting isolation, Turkish Cypriots in the breakaway north applied March 30 to join the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) of the Greek side of the divided island.

The Greek Cypriot-run CFA announced on its website that it has received a letter from the Cyprus Turkish Football Association (CTFA) on its decision to go ahead with all the “necessary actions” to become a member.

A copy of the letter was also sent to football’s world governing body FIFA and European body UEFA, Agence France-Presse reported on March 30.

The first step in the process is for the CTFA to harmonize its constitution with the CFA’s which will take about 40 days, said the CFA.

“Then the Turkish Cypriots will be able to proceed with the next step, submitting an application to join the CFA,” it said in a statement. The move follows a landmark deal brokered by FIFA between the two sides on November 5, 2013 in Switzerland, in what FIFA hailed at the time as a “major milestone” in the history of football in Cyprus. However, deal’s implementation could take several years to come into effect.

CTFA boss Hasan Sertoğlu held a press conference yesterday to confirm he had sent the request, despite having been accused of “selling out” Turkish Cypriot autonomy. He said he was determined to go through with the union for the future of sport and football in the north.

“A new era is beginning in the history of Turkish Cypriot football. I believe we are doing the right thing,” he said.

Move irks deputy PM

The move has angered Serdar Denktaş, the Turkish Cypriot deputy prime minister, who pledged  yesterday to cut ties with the CTFA.  “With the federation’s statement, it is understood that efforts our state is putting into football are underrated,” he said.

The CTFA have cited economic difficulties faced by clubs.

The provisional agreement signed in Zurich by CFA president Costakis Koutsokoumnis and Sertoğlu paves the way for Turkish Cypriot participation in CFA competitions, representation in CFA delegations, club friendly matches and club international friendlies.

The Turkish Cypriot national team is not part of FIFA or UEFA, with the Greek Cypriot team is the island’s sole global representative.

Six Greek Cypriot clubs and two from the Turkish community founded the CFA in 1934. But the CTFA was created in 1955 when the Turkish Cypriots pulled out of island-wide football as ethnic tensions spiraled before independence from Britain in 1960.

The recent move came at a time when both sides are considering a halt to exploration activities for hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, in order to restart settlement talks.

Turkey’s Barbaros Hayreddin Paşa seismic vessel has taken a break in its activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and anchored off the Gazimağusa harbor as a “good will sign,” Turkish Cypriot spokesperson Osman Ertuğ said March 27, ahead of a possible resumption of talks.

The move aims to support the efforts of U.N. Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide, Ertuğ said.

Özdil Nami, Turkish Cypriot foreign minister, told The Associated Press yesterday that a gas search notice to shipping traffic won’t be renewed “if the Greek Cypriot side does not either.”

Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades suspended peace talks last October after Turkey announced its own gas search plans in waters where the Cypriot government licensed companies to drill.