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Famagusta stands on two legs

The walled city of Famagusta in a sepia-toned postcard image. (www.cypnet.com)
Larnaca, Cyprus, 5 August 2005 | It demonstrated how football sides can serve as surrogates for larger animosities. When FC Anorthosis of Cyprus defeated Trabzonspor of Turkey over a two-leg Champions League qualifier, Cyprus Football Association officials said it felt like an island victory over the 1974 Turkish "invaders" (Michele Kambas, "Cyprus 'Big Lady' Celebrates Win Over Turks," Reuters, 4 August). A team from the Republic of Cyprus had never played a Turkish team since the incursion. The Anorthosis club—founded as a reading society in 1911 in Famagusta in the northeast, part of the Ammochostos region (see club history)—was displaced when Turkish forces intervened in July 1974 to protect the Turkish Cypriot community following a coup d'état. They are now based in Larnaca, on the southern coast. That the island's division into

Suitable for imbibing: A Base Ring tankard from Bronze Age Cyprus. (Semitic Museum, Harvard University)
Greek and Turkish sections still stirs emotion became apparent before the tie's second leg in Trabzon on 3 August. Five hundred protesters gathered outside the Anorthosis team hotel, and an advertisement in nationalist newspaper Volkan bore menace: "Forward lads! Those who threw the Greeks into the Aegean in 1922, those who in 1974 hurled back the Greek Cypriots to the south of the Mediterranean, let them by the same token punish the Greek Cypriots at the Avni Aker stadium. Let us squeeze them into the Black Sea. Allah be with us!" (Elias Hazou, "Tense Scenes at Airport for Local Team," Cyprus Mail, 3 August). Anorthosis withstood the distractions for a 3–2 aggregate victory, prompting large airport crowds on the 4:30 a.m. return to Larnaca. "You don't see those scenes often in a life," said player-coach Temuri Ketsbaia of Georgia. "It was four o'clock in the morning and there were about 6,000 people there. That's probably the equivalent of about 100,000 fans in British football" (Mark Wilson, "Ketsbaia Faces Up to the Bald Truth," The Herald [Glasgow]). Scottish newspapers were interested because of Anorthosis's third-round opponent: Rangers FC of Glasgow, with a first-leg match in Nicosia on 9 August. The winner of the tie moves directly into Europe's premier club competition.

Update: Rangers enter the second leg, to be held 24 August in Glasgow, with a 2–1 cushion. Much more significant, though, have been the ramifications on the Famagusta side of the 14 August crash of Helios Airways flight ZU 522 outside Athens. The uncle, aunt and two nieces of team captain Nikos Nikolaou were among the 121 who perished (John Leonidou, "Cypriot Football in Mourning," Cyprus Mail, 17 August). The Cyprus international missed the 17 August World Cup qualifier in the Faroe Islands—a 3–0 Cyprus victory—but is available for the Champions League qualifier against Rangers (Lakis Avraamides, "Bereaved Nikolaou Set to Face Rangers," The Scotsman, 23 August). A Cypriot referee as well as a board member and a medical officer with other Cyprus teams also died in the crash.

Social malaise felt on terraces

Istanbul, 15–16 February 2005 | Migration, urbanization, unemployment and failures in

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan chaired a three-hour cabinet meeting following Aktas's murder.
education are being linked to violent incidents in Turkish football. After Cihat Aktas, 16, was fatally stabbed last November at a match between Besiktas and Caykur Rizespor, justice minister Cemil Cicek called for a parliamentary inquiry and new legislation to control increasing zealotry among football supporters. Yigit Akin in Soccer & Society details other incidents and mentions previous draft legislation ("Not Just a Game: The Kayseri vs. Sivas Football Disaster," summer 2004, 219–32). But fanatic attachment to Istanbul sides Galatasary, Fenerbahçe and Besiktas provides identification for many of the city's 12 million. "Supporting a club is not only the most important thing in these people's lives, it allows them to latch on to those clubs' achievements," says Dogu Ergil, sociologist at Ankara University.

A chain of violent incidents has also led to calls for government response in Israel. Hapoel Haifa coach Nir Levin complained to the Knesset Committee on Violence in Sport after his car was vandalized. "The trouble makers need to be put behind lock and key. I don't fear for my life, but I will certainly be more careful."

  • London and Istanbul | 9 October 2003 . . . There has been a spate of articles on problems besetting English football: the alleged sexual assaults and gang rapes, as well as the strike threats before England's crucial Euro 2004 qualifying fixture against Turkey. "Football does seem to be all-pervasive," writes the Guardian's Matthew Engel. In advance of the 11 October match, The Observer's Ed Vulliamy gives a rambling, rollicking account of the Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe derby in Istanbul.
  • This is the battle between two clubs from the same city but different continents—Europe and Asia—divided by the Bosporus, astride which a metropolis of 16 million sprawls from either bank. It is a confrontation up there in the league of loathing with Roma-Lazio or Celtic-Rangers and devoid of that Samba carnival nonsense that makes Rio's Flamengo-Fluminense so limp. "This is war," declares the Fenerbahçe fans' leader, Sefa. "In Glasgow maybe it's religion, in Rome maybe it's politics. Here it's pure football. We hate each other, that's all."

    On the sex angle, we refer you to Simon Kuper's Financial Times article, in which he observes that "English footballers sin in packs. . . . They get into trouble together. They even watch each other having sex. This is because there is a strain in English football that regards drinking and group sex as forms of teambuilding." | back to top