After many years, Turkish Cyprus hosts a FIFA member team for first time

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Turkish Cyprus is hosting a FIFA and UEFA member country’s football team for winter camp for the first time in decades.

Vålerenga, which competed in Norway’s top football league, came for a mid-season training at the facilities of a hotel in the Turkish Cypriot resort town of Kyrenia.

“We were able to bring school teams to our country before, but for the first time an important team chose our country for the camp. This is a big event,” said Fikret Yeterli, an official from Acapulco Sports Park Hotel where Våleranga camped.

The mid-season training of Våleranga will last for a week, but there is no friendly match in the team’s schedule.

Turkish Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey and is facing a longstanding embargo in commerce, transportation, culture and sports.

The embargo on Turkish Cypriot sports started with the declaration of Turkish Cyprus in 1983.

Applying to FIFA to play a friendly match with Turkish Cyprus’ national football team, Turkey was forced to withdraw its application due FIFA’s imminent punishment against Turkey’s Football Federation (TFF).

However, Turkish Cyprus, which did not lose its hope of having external contacts, applied to FIFA in July 1987 to play international matches.

Responding to this application, FIFA’s executive board once again reminded that Turkish Cyprus was strictly forbidden to play a match with any FIFA member country, assuming that Turkish Cyprus was “forcibly” founded.

The chance of Turkish Cypriot football teams to play friendly matches in the international arena ended with this decision.

In 1988, Gençlerbirliği, a symbolic team of Turkey’s capital city Ankara, and Turkish Cypriot football team Türk Ocağı Limasol played a friendly match in Turkish Cyprus.

But FIFA warned TFF not to play a match with any non-member of FIFA.

Gençlerbirliği, which did not take notice of FIFA’s warning, played a match in front of a huge crowd in Kyrenia on Jan. 1988.

Gençlerbirliği won the game 2-0, but the team and TFF were punished by FIFA.

TFF was subjected to a “warning penalty” and Gençlerbirliği was banned from UEFA for four years.

A friendly match, planned to be held in 2007 between the British football team Luton Town and the Turkish Cypriot football team Çetinkaya, was canceled due to international pressure a few hours before the first whistle of the match would be blown.

In 2019, a game between Greek Cypriot football team Nea Salamina and Turkish Cypriot football team Mağusa Türk Gücü took place in Pyla, a mixed-community village in the buffer zone in the ethnically divided Cyprus.

Former Chelsea legend and deputy vice president of Peace and Sport, Didier Drogba was also at the game.

It was the second football game between teams from Cyprus’ largest ethnic communities since 1955.

Turkish Cyprus’ national football team can play matches in alternative competitions such as the CONIFA Cup and FIFI Wild Cup, in which non-FIFA members like Abkhazia, Lapland and Greenland can participate.

Turkish Cyprus beat Zanzibar and won the FIFI Wild Cup at 2006.

Hurriyet Daily News

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