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Football and Politics One Side and the Same As Cyprus Revives Reunification Attempts

Sep 1, 2008
Football is one of those things that is far more important that the immediate sum of its parts - the twenty-two men, ninety minutes and two goals. This is especially true in times of crises, where the sporting conflict serves as metonym for the wider political or humanitarian reality.

Since the 1950's there have been two different leagues in Cyprus; the Cyrpus Football Federation (the KOP) and the Turkish Cypriot Football Federation. In the years preceding that there had been a single federation, the KOP, but this unity was disavowed when, in the unforgiving atmosphere of the 1950's, the Turkish Cypriots were banned from playing in their stadiums and, as a result, left the league to establish a separate federation.

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) has recently called for the unification of football in Cyprus. This proposed federation would fall under the currently existing KOP banner, which has been, since the 1950's, a Greek Cypriot federation.

FIFA's proposal mirrors the optimism that is currently circling around the September 2nd meeting of North Cyprus's Mehmet Ali Talat and South Cyprus' new left-wing leader Dimitris Christofias. After five years of entrenched stalling on the issue of reunification - stalling emblazoned in the mind by the failure of the Annan plan in 2004, a failure which was encouraged and welcomed by Christiofias's predecessor, this new leader looks to be putting motion into plans for reunification.

However, the fact that FIFA has suggested that the North Cyprios federation should assimilate into the KOP has touched a nerve in the North, and Turkish Cypriot presidential spokesman Hana Ercakica has rejected the international body's plans as unacceptable because they do not give equal weighting to both federations, but instead see the Turkish Cypriot Federation as the lesser of two terms.

Ercakica said that "The Turkish Cypriot Football Federation is a federation which was established in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Cyprus and was harmonised with the laws and regulations of the Turkish Cypriot Communal Chambers. The Greek Cypriot Football Federation is a federation which was established with the laws passed by Greek Cypriot Communal Chambers and belongs to the Greek Cypriots."

Ercakia said Omer Adal, the Chairman of the Cyprus Turkish Football Federation, would meet the Greek Cypriot Football Federation's offer to bring the Turkish Federation under its wings with an offer of his own. The importance of this sporting bureaucracy in the wider political climate is shown by the fact that Adal has had meetings with both the Presidency and the Prime Ministry. The desire for equal standing is seen as one key hurdle in bringing any resolution out of the upcoming Talat-Christofias meeting in September, and Ercakica has flatly denied the possibility of assimilating the northern federation with the southern. Both federations must be given equal weight, he said, "Otherwise, it is not possible to be a member of the Greek Cypriot Football Federation and open the doors for friendship matches as they offered,."

Not long ago this news would have seemed just another result of an intractable conflict. Now, with Christiofias leading the South toward negotiations that look genuinely geared toward finding a feasible solution to the Cyprus Problem, the idea of a unified football league sounds like a bell ringing in a new day.
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Martin Gavin is a writer for Meridies Homes meridies homes
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