The Not So Beautiful Game

The Turkish Cypriot Football Federation will not lie down on this one. Two recent events occurred which incensed Hasan Sertoglu, the president of the TRNC football federation (KTFF) – President Dervis Eroglu invited over from Turkey Yildirim Demiroren, the head of the Turkish Football Federation for a meeting at the presidential palace.

Hasan Sertoglu angrily claimed that he had been unaware of the invitation, however he was also invited to the meeting at the palace.

Last week, the man with a string of titles behind him, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Sports, Tourism etc Serdar Denktas went to Ankara to meet with Turkey’s Minister of Youth and Sport Akif Cagatay Kilic in Ankara. He announced that the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) had written to FIFA requesting permission to open an office in North Cyprus to enhance relations between both federations.

Sertoglu said that he had been informed by the TFF that it could not be seen to be publicly associating together with the KTFF, even though it did not agree with the FIFA rules on this matter. Now TTF was in favour of opening a ‘branch’ office in North Cyprus.

Sertoglu is upset because no one asked him what he thought about the idea. FIFA then wrote to Sertoglu asking for his opinion and also wanting to know about any progress made on joining KOP.

Since Sertoglu made an effort to join the Cyprus Football Federation (KOP) he has been branded a “traitor” by some and has incurred the displeasure of President Eroglu. Only last month, the President’s spokesman Osman Ertug said that this move would come at a political cost and was not the way to go. However all 42 members of the KTFF had voted in favour of joining KOP.

In October 2013, both Turkish and Greek Cypriot Football Federations gave statements which said that they had been invited by the FIFA president, Sepp Blatter to discuss and finalise a “provisional arrangement for football in Cyprus” which would be based on FIFA and UEFA statutes. The statements gave no details of what the arrangements might be.

On 5th December 2013, a draft agreement was signed between both federations in Zurich. According to the deal, Turkish clubs would join the Greek Cypriot Federation and the football division will be unified under the Greek Cypriot league’s umbrella. The transition would be headed by a committee composed of eight members, four from for each side, which would be responsible for implementing the conditions of the agreement.

Following on, Turkish Cypriot clubs would be able to compete in European tournaments – if qualified – and would also be able organise friendlies with clubs from other countries, which was previously banned due to embargoes.

“It is expected that at the end of the deliberations the two delegations will sign a document outlining the steps for the progress of football in the whole of Cyprus, with the approval of FIFA and UEFA,” the statements said.

“The arrangement will need to be ratified by the general assemblies of both the Cyprus FA and the Cyprus Turkish FA,” the statement concluded. This never happened, someone apparently got nervous.

So going over Sertoglu’s head, President Eroglu and Deputy PM Denktas have doubtless invited Turkey to act in order to sink the idea of the KTFF become part of KOP. However, Sertoglu has said he will still make efforts to join KOP.

If the TFF do open an office in North Cyprus it could mean that young players get a shot at the big league in conjunction with mainland Turkish football. Who would blame them for taking the opportunity? While the TRNC economy languishes due to embargoes, the young in this part of the island suffer too.

Of course, because of the political aspect to this whole affair, loyalties become even more divided. Turkey which saved the Turkish Cypriots from almost total extinction in 1974 by launching a peace keeping mission on the island, also populated the North with mainlanders; many Turkish Cypriots have left Cyprus because of the lack of economic prospects.

Although Turkey has kept the North afloat for decades, there are many remaining Turkish Cypriots who feel that they are being subsumed by Turkey. Perhaps losing its young sportsmen and women to Turkey is another blow to Turkish Cypriot identity but in tandem, provides a boost to the future of these young sports people.

With Turkey’s considerable power and influence over these events, this is the status quo.

As they say, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

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