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.