GC protests re­sisted,

Cyprus Today - - FRONT PAGE - By KEREM HASAN and ŞIRIN ÖZKAYNAK

A NORTH Lon­don bor­ough has re­jected re­quests from Greek Cypriot lobby groups in the UK to stop North Cyprus from play­ing foot­ball there, fol­low­ing a storm of protests from Turk­ish Cypri­ots.

En­field Coun­cil said that it would not in­ter­vene in the de­ci­sion to al­low North Cyprus to play at its Queen El­iz­a­beth II sta­dium in an in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment which kicks off on May 31.

The team from the TRNC is sched­uled to play three matches at the sta­dium in the group stages of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tions (Conifa) World Foot­ball Cup. The fi­nal and bronze medal match will also be played at the ground, Conifa said this week.

Last week the Lon­don­based Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of [Greek] Cypri­ots in the UK wrote to En­field Coun­cil chiefs claim­ing that al­low­ing the games to go ahead would be “in­sult­ing” to the “[Greek] Cypriot com­mu­nity”, while the Greek Cypriot-run Lobby for Cyprus de­scribed it as “out­ra­geous”.

The move was con­demned as “shame­ful” by Cyprus Turk­ish Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion (KTFF) pres­i­dent Hasan Ser­toğlu, in com­ments re­ported by Cyprus To­day. En­field Coun­cil was forced to re­spond this week to the grow­ing furore.

“The Queen El­iz­a­beth II sta­dium is owned by En­field Coun­cil but the foot­ball pitch, sur­round­ing spec­ta­tor ar­eas and con­nected build­ings are leased on a longterm ba­sis to En­field Town Foot­ball Club Sup­port­ers So­ci­ety Ltd for use by En­field Town FC,” a spokesman told this pa­per.

“The coun­cil does not have any power over the way the club is run, so any mat­ters or is­sues which may arise would need to be ad­dressed di­rectly to the club rather than [to] En­field Coun­cil and will be for the club to deal with.”

The state­ment was wel­comed by Ra­madan İs­mail, an En­field Town FC di­rec­tor, who said the club and the sta­dium had of­fi­cial “com­mu­nity” sta­tus.

“I think this is called racism, op­pres­sion and depri­va­tion,” he said.

“Within [En­field] bor­ough is a recog­nised Turk­ish Cypriot com­mu­nity, who [En­field Coun­cil] is obliged to serve . . . oth­er­wise it will fail the [Lon­don 2012] Olympic legacy which funded the sta­dium’s re­fur­bish­ment.”

He added that the club’s chair­man Paul Reed had also re­ceived a protest let­ter from the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of [Greek] Cypri­ots in the UK, which was “kindly ac­knowl­edged”.

Mehmet Hus­sein, the UK rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Turk­ish Cypri­ots Abroad (ATCA), which had sent a coun­ter­let­ter to En­field Coun­cil, said: “This is a ma­jor suc­cess for Turk­ish Cypriot lob­by­ing and sol­i­dar­ity.

“The re­sponse of En­field Coun­cil proves the cor­rect­ness of the ATCA let­ter sent last week, which stated that En­field Coun­cil does not have any le­gal obli­ga­tion to­wards in­di­vid­ual teams that will play in [the] Conifa [World Foot­ball Cup]. We thank En­field Coun­cil for this de­ci­sion.”

He warned, how­ever, that “Greek Cypriot lob­by­ing was con­tin­u­ing by other lobby groups” who were try­ing to “raise ten­sions between the Turk­ish [Cypriot] and Greek Cypriot com­mu­ni­ties in Lon­don”.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ku­dret Öz­er­say was re­ported to have told ATCA that he was in the process of draft­ing a let­ter on the is­sue, although he did not spec­ify to whom.

“The ap­par­ent in­tol­er­ance of the Greek Cypri­ots abroad to­wards some­thing hu­mane and peace­ful like sport is con­cern­ing,” he said.

“We ex­pect all of the ac­tors, es­pe­cially the United King­dom, who claim to pro­mote a so­lu­tion and a re­la­tion­ship between the two sides based on trust, not to show any tol­er­ance to­wards these un­rea­son­able and un­civilised ac­tions.”

Orçun Ka­malı, the KTFF’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive at Conifa, also praised En­field Coun­cil’s stance and called on foot­ball sup­port­ers to start buy­ing tick­ets for the North Cyprus matches via the Conifa.org web­site be­fore they are “snapped up by other na­tion­al­i­ties”.

A se­ries of tweets from Conifa’s of­fi­cial ac­count on Wed­nes­day, in re­sponse to crit­i­cism on so­cial me­dia, backed the rights of Turk­ish Cypri­ots to take part in the tour­na­ment.

“North­ern Cyprus is . . . fully ex­cluded from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball and UEFA/FIFA up­hold their in­fa­mous sports em­bargo on over 300,000 Cypri­ots. We are proud to jump in and pro­vide them a valu­able plat­form for ex­change!” one tweet said.

On Thurs­day, Conifa hit back against crit­i­cism, tweet­ing: “We don’t recog­nise or not recog­nise coun­tries and we don’t have the power to do so. We do recog­nise, as [the Greek Cypri­otrun Cyprus Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion] KOP [had] . . . the KTFF as the or­gan­iser of foot­ball in North­ern Cyprus — not more, not less.”

It ap­peared to lay blame at KOP’s door for the fail­ure of talks to merge with the KTFF, adding: “We’ve not been part of the re­union talks, so we won’t blame any­one. Ac­cord­ing to me­dia and sci­en­tific re­ports, KOP ended the talks, against the wish of KTFF, FIFA and UEFA . . . KOP didn’t recog­nise the ex­is­tence or his­tory of KTFF and thus they couldn’t merge/join. A sad out­come.”

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and For­eign Min­is­ter Ku­dret Öz­er­say

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