Monday, 29 September 2014

Greek Cypriot footballer branded traitor for joining North Cyprus league, as Sertoğlu urges FIFA to intervene

Dimitris Vasiliou made history last week when he signed to play for KTFF first division side Değermenlik

Promising football developments in Cyprus came to a sudden halt when a young Greek Cypriot footballer was branded a traitor and prevented from making his debut for his new Turkish Cypriot team on Saturday. Last week, Dimitris Vasiliou made history when he signed for first division side Değermenlik, becoming the first Greek Cypriot player in the Turkish Cypriot league. He was expected to play for his new club at the weekend in a match against Hamitköy. However, a massive backlash from nationalists in South Cyprus, who had surrounded his home, forced the player to remain indoors under police protection.

Anger started to build against Vasiliou immediately after the news of his signing broke in North Cypriot media. Negative comments were initially posted on social media, many demanding the player was not permitted to play in North Cyprus, which they view as “occupied territories”. Fanatics made their way to the player’s home where they chanted “traitor” and made threats against him, forcing the police to intervene.

Vasiliou: "my sole purpose is football not politics - I want to be a role model for the island’s youth"

Talking to Greek Cypriot media, Vasiliou rejected claims that he was a “traitor” by signing to play for a Turkish Cypriot team, saying his, “sole purpose is football not politics” and that he wants to be a “role model” for the island’s youth. He said he did not deserve what was happening to him and if he had known this would be the likely reaction, he would not have agreed to the transfer deal. When pushed on his future, Vasiliou said: “I don’t know what I will do.”

A statement from Değermenlik said Dimitris Vasiliou remained their player and is expected to play in the near future. However, due to concerns for the footballer’s personal safety, it was decided the player did not make the journey across the Green Line on Saturday.

Değermenlik chairman Emirali Öztüccar told Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet that he did not find the attitude of the Greek Cypriots correct. The two football federations on the island were committed to uniting Cyprus through football and it was in that spirit that the Vasiliou transfer was made. “The threats by Greek Cypriots are not right. Our player’s only aim is to play football. We believe our player will be in the team line-up next week.”

According to Milliyet, Hasan Sertoğlu, the head of the Turkish Cypriot Football Association (KTFF) tried to call his Greek Cypriot counterpart Kostakis Kutsokumnis to discuss the matter. However, to date Kutsokumnis had not responded to any of Sertoğlu’s calls.

Hasan Sertoğlu wants FIFA to help break football deadlock
Earlier in the week, Sertoğlu had urged FIFA and UEFA to get involved in Cyprus football. Addressing a press conference in Lefkoşa, he highlighted the lack of progress between KTFF and KOP in South Cyprus following their historic FIFA-brokered pact that was signed in Zurich last November, which aimed to bring the two Cypriot football federations under a common umbrella. In line with the agreement, KTFF had formally applied to join KOP but their application has still not been processed.

Sertoğlu claims that after numerous meetings and correspondence, they have reached a deadlock with KOP, which he believes requires FIFA and UEFA’s assistance to break. He told journalists: “We have sent a letter to FIFA and UEFA calling on them to undertake their duties [by facilitating the talks between the two federations].” He added, “KOP is not happy with this letter."   

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