NICOSIA – Calls are growing for Cyprus Football Association (CFA) boss Costakis Koutsokoumnis to step down for wearing the Turkish uniform in a game and agreeing to call his country South Cyprus, the designation given by Turkey.
He was also censured for agreeing to take part in meeting in a country that did not recognize Cyprus, according to the Cyprus Mail which reported on the furor.
A photograph of the team, including Koutsokoumnis, appeared on the Internet, sparking immediate outrage in a country where Turkish troops still unlawfully occupy the northern third of the island since an internationally-condemned 1974 invasion.
The match was played during the regional meeting of football associations that took place in Istanbul on April 9, hosted by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) and included representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Slovenia.
The government of President Nicos Anastasiades took no action apart from urging Koutsokomnis to show more sensitivity at a time when unity talks are ongoing but have stalled
“The government believes the actions of any federation or clubs or their representatives, must not disregard Greek Cypriot sensitivities, based on the current state of affairs; especially when they represent Cyprus abroad,” a statement on the issue said.
Officials from a top soccer team, Anorthosis Famagusta condemned the act on and expressed “surprise and sadness” at seeing the CFA chairman displaying the Turkish flag, the paper said.
“We understand the need for the CFA chairman to represent the association, and Cyprus, in international fora, but we wonder whether Mr. Koutsokoumnis realises that he represents a country with 37 per cent of its territory under occupation, after a barbaric Turkish invasion (in 1974),” Anorthosis said.
Champions APOEL of Nicosia also condemned the act through its official Twitter account. “In a bloodstained and wounded country, the star and crescent on the chest is a disgrace no matter how you see it, APOEL Tweeted.
Omonia Nicosia spokesman Andreas Demetriou said from the moment the island was under Turkish occupation, “we must be extra careful not to provoke our people’s sensitivities.”
On his Facebook page, Koutsokoumnis reportedly defended his action saying it was a statement “to the Turks that their symbols do not touch me; Contempt.”
He insisted that by wearing the shirt of a country still perceived as an enemy he was really showing the superiority and freedom of Greeks and Cypriots “in an insignificant friendly game between the chairmen of the federations.”
Koutsokoumnis had accepted to represent the “Greek Cypriot administration of South Cyprus” a term used by Turkey to describe the Republic of Cyprus. Only Turkey recognizes the territory it unlawfully holds on the island.
APOEL fans described the whole affair as an act of “high treason” and demanded his ouster. “We demand from the APOEL administration to withdraw its confidence to Mr. Koutsokoumnis and also ask for his immediate resignation,” a statement said.
The political party EDEK described the act as an “insult to the cultural principles and values he supposedly stands for.”
“We expected Mr. Koutsokoumnis’ public apology and immediate resignation,” the party said.