Turkish Cypriot football clubs in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have agreed to reforms which will harmonise the charter of their football body with FIFA standards as a prerequisite to the reunification of the sport in the divided island.
Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot footballers are set to be reunited after 60 years of separation due to political tensions in the divided eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus.
Cyprus Turkish Football Association (KTFF) chairman Hasan Sertoglu in March announced plans to join the internationally recognised Cyprus Football Association (CFA), which is based in the island’s Greek Cypriot-controlled south.
Sertoglu at the time also said he had sent a letter addressed to FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke in which he promised to reform KTFF statutes according to international norms, after which Turkish Cypriot football clubs will be asked to ratify the agreements.
In an extraordinary general assembly, 40 out of 42 KTFF member clubs participated in a vote on the reforms, 38 of which agreed to them.
Welcoming the vote, Sertoglu told the Cyprus News Agency “a trip has started for the future of football, youth, and the country.”
The KTFF is now set to regain all rights and obligations in the CFA with the active role and participation of Turkish Cypriot officials, clubs and players with equal representation in the federation's board.
Turkish Cypriot football teams have been unable to compete in official international competitions since Turkey’s military intervention in 1974 in response to a Greek-inspired coup which divided the island.
Due to the TRNC being unrecognised by the international community, its national football team has to date only participated in non-official international tournaments such as the FIFI Wild Cup along with other non-official or unrecognised teams such as Greenland and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Turkish Cypriot football clubs and players have also not been able to play against clubs from outside the TRNC on Turkish Cypriot soil, even for non-competitive games.
In 2007, English football club Luton Town was forced to cancel a friendly match with Turkish Cypriot team Cetinkaya, which was due to be played in the TRNC, following pressure from the Greek Cypriot administration.
Last year, Greek Cypriot football player Dimitris Vasiliou was also prevented from attending his debut match for Turkish Cypriot team Degermenlik after far-right Greek Cypriots surrounded his home, calling him a “traitor.”
However, by reuniting the two federations, Turkish Cypriot teams and players will finally see an end to decades of isolation which has prevented them from progressing on the international stage.