Rival Cyprus FAs closer to reunification deal

Officials from both sides of ethnically split Cyprus say they
are closer to a deal that would reunify rival football
organizations and allow breakaway Turkish Cypriots to play
internationally.

”There’s light at the end of the tunnel” for an agreement,”
Cyprus Football Association President Costas Koutsokoumnis said on
Thursday after talks with Turkish Cypriot Football Association
counterpart Hasan Sertoglu.

”We agree on most points, but we need to package them in a way
that other people will accept them,” Koutsokoumnis said.

Koutsokoumnis said he will meet again with Sertoglu at FIFA
headquarters in Zurich in March in hopes of finalizing the
deal.

FIFA official Primo Corvaro who attended the meeting at the
Turkish Cypriot Association’s headquarters, said the two sides are
looking to hammer out an in-principle agreement in Zurich that will
be followed up by additional meetings between officials from both
sides to figure out how the deal would work.

Cyprus was split into an internationally recognized Greek
Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when
Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Only the Cyprus FA, in the island’s south, is recognized by
FIFA.

Football is the most popular sport on both sides of the divide
and an agreement would be a boon for Turkish Cypriots who have
languished in isolation for decades. By contrast, Greek Cypriot
clubs have recently marked notable international successes,
including former champion APOEL’s stunning run last year to the
Champions League quarterfinals.

Turkish Cypriots formed their own association in 1955 amid a
flare-up of ethnic tensions during a Greek Cypriot uprising against
British colonial rule at the time.

Numerous efforts to reunify the federations over the years have
stumbled over the country’s complex politics. A key reason has been
a Turkish Cypriot reluctance to accept the authority of the Cyprus
FA, a necessary precondition because FIFA doesn’t accept two
associations in one country.

If a deal is reached, it would stand in stark contrast to the
latest round of talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriot political
leaders aimed at reunifying the country which have stalled.

Koutsokoumnis said both sides would stand to benefit from
reunifying football.

”I hope that they can sort something out, it’s a shame for our
young people because there are many talented players,” said
82-year-old Sevim Ebeoglu, a veteran Turkish Cypriot footballer who
won three championships with southern club AEL in the early
1950s.