Friday, 23 November 2012

Two Cypriot associations restart talks after four years

Signs of a breakthrough in the impasse between the two football associations in Cyprus are finally emerging.

For the first time since early 2008, the Cyprus Turkish Football Association (CTFA) representing the clubs in the unrecognised breakaway state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have met with officials from the Greek-dominated Cyprus Football Association.

The CTFA delegation was led by president Hasan Sertoğlu (pictured left) and met a CFA delegation at Limassol in the Republic of Cyprus. Muharrem Özseyfiler, the CTFA general secretary, said: “The two delegations met each other and exchanged views and ideas, and decided to meet again next December.”

The CTFA delegation also included head of external relations Orçun Kamalı (pictured right), legal adviser and CTFA appeal committee vice-president Hasan Balman, and former FIFA head of international relations Jerome Champagne, who is advising the CTFA,

The CFA delegation was led by president Costakis Koutsokoumnis and also featured deputy president Koumas Georghios, first vice-president Harıs Loizides and second vice president Nicos Nicolaou.

At the last talks, the CTFA was offered a chance to join the CFA but Turkish Cypriot officials were concerned that this would make the organisation subsidiary to the CFA, which was founded in 1934 and joined FIFA in 1948 – a dozen years before the then British colony achieved independence.

As conflict between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities grew in the run-up to independence, the Turkish Cypriot clubs split away in 1955 and have played separately ever since. The CTFA league features 48 clubs, who are unable to play games against any sides outside the TRNC.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Northern Cyprus

The crumbling old Taxim Stadium in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia is redolent of what has happened to football in Northern Cyprus over the last 30 years.

The ground is no longer used because it sits right on the Turkish side of the Green Line dividing the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities on the island.

A United Nations (UN) sentry tower looms over the pitch, which is surrounded by barbed wire. Getting spectators in and out of a ground where Çetinkaya Türk Spor Kulübü became the last club from the Turkish-dominated Northern Cyprus to win a Cypriot league title back in 1951, is no longer possible.

The ground is crumbling and prone to flooding during Autumn and winter downpours but Çetinkaya’s headquarters remains nearby. In a sign of a softening of a conflict that was solidified first by Turkey’s invasion of the northern part of Cyprus in 1974, then the mostly ignored declaration of independence in 1983 of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the ground is now being used again.

Like most of the big clubs in Northern Cyprus, Çetinkaya’s players are only semi-professional, training on some weekday afternoons. After striking an agreement with the UN, this now takes place back at Taxim with the Çetinkaya players training on a surface under the UN sentry tower and away from the piles of barbed wire – a sign of the divide that splits the island in political and sporting terms.

Change is afoot though. Hasan Sertoğlu took over as president at the association in the north, the CTFA, in 2010. Sertoğlu is a former president of the Küçük Kaymaklı Türk Spor Kulübü, which won the championship the north in 2010/11 before Çetinkaya reclaimed the title last season. 

The Turkish clubs broke away in 1955 as social conflict gripped the island. Attempts to play internationally have foundered at the gates of FIAF, although Northern Cyprus will take on a side of London-based Turkish Cypriots in the English capital on May 19 2013. For Sertoğlu, whose mandate runs until June 2014, the priority is reaching some form of agreement with the Greek-dominated Cyprus Football Association (CFA) in the south. 

Talks between the two sides broke down after politics intervened. The CTFA want to resuurect those discussions with the CFA, but do the Greek Cypriots want to listen?

For more on football on this story and in Northern Cyprus, see the December 2012 edition of World Soccer magazine.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Coppa Vaticano

The Swiss Guards have been knocked out of the 2012 Coppa Vaticano. FC Guardia are one of only five teams to take part in the latest edition of the annual cup competition in the Holy See but a 5-2 defeat to Pantheon SD left the side drawn from the Pope’s personal guards bottom of the group stage.

The preliminary phase was won by New Hermes, a club drawn from the Vatican’s museum staff, who will play Fortitudo 2007 in the first of the two-legged semi-finals this weekend.  Second placed Dirseco – a team from shop staff in the Vatican - and Pantheon SD will contest the other semi-final with the first leg also staged this weekend.

The number of teams entering the Coppa Vaticano has dwindled from the eight that entered the 2011 competition. Neither postal side Dirtel, Telefoni SCV nor police side Gendarmeria entered the 2012 Coppa Vaticano.

The reduction in teams is another blow for football in the Vatican, which was recently hit by the death of Dr Sergio Valci, the driving force behind the game there.

The late Dr Valci’s career as an amateur defender was ended by a scooter accident four decades ago. Half a game into his comeback at 24, the diminutive Valci knew that he would never play again. Instead, he set about forming a competition for the Vatican’s residents.

The origins of New Hermes date back to 1966. In 1972, the first league championship was first staged with fixtures played – then as now – on Monday nights at the Pontificio Oratorio di San Pietro leisure centre in the hills above the Vatican.

The Coppa Vaticano began in 1985 and is traditionally played after the league, which begins in February. In 2011, the Coppa Vaticano was staged before the league. This year the schedule returned to normal but the loss of Dr Valci has deprived the game in the Vatican of any normalcy.

Thanks to Aurelio for the pictures
 New Hermes