GC protests resisted,
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