Cyprus & World News

CYPRUS: Rival Cypriot leaders to attend rare football friendly

15 March, 2019

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci will attend an historic bicommunal football friendly on March 19 for only the second such match in 64 years.

As part of Peace and Sport’s ongoing efforts to use sport as a tool for diplomacy and dialogue around the world, the organization will hold the bicommunal “Friendly Football Day” in partnership with the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation with the support of the United Nations in Cyprus.

The event, in the mixed village of Pyla, outside Larnaca, will also be attended by Peace and Sport President and Founder Joël Bouzou, football legend Didier Drogba, and Stelios Philanthropic Foundation Founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

The “Friendly Football Day” will gather athletes, families, diplomats and children to promote dialogue, understanding and friendship through sport.

Highlight of the day will be a friendly football match between the Greek Cypriot football team Nea Salamina FC and the Turkish Cypriot Magusa Türk Gücü FC.

Bouzou said “we are very excited to organize the `Friendly Football Day` because it will bring together Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot teams, fans, families and children.

This event will also demonstrate the diplomatic power of sport bringing high-level leaders and diplomats for dialogue and cooperation. The universality and neutrality of sport can help to forge ties between divided communities”.

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou called it an “historic event” to promote lasting peace and dialogue.

“We believe that sport can bring people together…This Friendly Football Day will be the opportunity to promote respect and cooperation through sport.”

Cyprus has been divided since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. Since 1955, Greek Cypriot teams and Turkish Cypriot teams play in separate competitions.

In March 2005, however, Nea Salamina and Yeni Mosque played together in Famagusta. This upcoming friendly football match will be the second of the kind in 64 years, gathering fans from both communities around the positive values of football.

Peace and Sport is actively engaged in the promotion of sport diplomacy events.

Last year, the organization helped to bring together North Korea and South Korea athletes in mixed teams at Liebherr 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championship and the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.