CYPRUS: Turkish Cypriot leader snubs peace match

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci snubbed an invitation to attend Tuesday’s first bicommunal football match in 14 years to promote reconciliation on ethnically-divided Cyprus.

Akinci � who was pencilled in to attend with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades � reportedly objected to the match being held in the mixed village of Pyla outside Larnaca, rather than the UN-controlled or neutral buffer zone.

Although it has been pointed out that Pyla (inside the Republic of Cyprus) was always the designated venue for a rare outing between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot football teams.

Akinci’s no show also underlines how far the stalled peace process needs to travel before the narrowing the gap between two rival leaders unable to display unity for 90 minutes of football.

Cypriot president Anastasiades who attended the game told reporters he’d rather not comment on the absence of his Turkish Cypriot counterpart.

“I prefer to watch the game, which aims precisely at improving the climate (between the two sides). We can remember the good old days when our teams did not have any trouble playing each other and I wish to experience those good old times as soon as possible.”

As part of Peace and Sport’s ongoing efforts to use sport as a tool for diplomacy and dialogue around the world, the organization arranged Tuesday’s bicommunal Friendly Football Day in partnership with the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation with the support of the United Nations in Cyprus.

A highlight of the day is a friendly football match between the Greek Cypriot football team Nea Salamina FC and the Turkish Cypriot Magusa Turk Gucu FC.

Peace and Sport had said the event was to demonstrate the diplomatic power of sport bringing high-level leaders and diplomats for dialogue and cooperation. The universality and neutrality of sport can help to forge ties between divided communities.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops invaded the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a Greek-inspired military coup in Nicosia.

Since 1955, Greek Cypriot teams and Turkish Cypriot teams have played in separate competitions.

In March 2005, however, Nea Salamina and Yeni Mosque played together in Famagusta.

Tuesday’s friendly match is only the second of its kind in 64 years.

Monaco-based Peace and Sport is actively engaged in the promotion of sport diplomacy events.

Last year, the organization helped to bring together North Korea and South Korea athletes in mixed teams at Liebherr 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championship and the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Source: The Financial Mirror