Every footballer dreams of aspirations to play at the highest level. For those gifted ones who are lucky to be spotted by the scouts their dreams eventually turn out to be a reality.
I was really pleased to hear the recent news surrounding the successful application of the Gibraltar Football Association to become a full member of UEFA. Spain and Gibraltar have had tensions for many a year but common sense has prevailed, particularly after Gibraltar took their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and won. In 2007, out of 52 football associations, only the English, Welsh and Scottish FA’s supported a similar application so it is clear the Gibraltar lobby has been very effective since then.
I believe that politics should never interfere with sport. Politicians who stop footballers and other athletes participating with their sporting peers should be ashamed of themselves. Indeed, the UEFA and FIFA statute book also declares this to be the case (see link).
Cyprus is a case in question where one side of the island has flourished when it comes to football. Apoel Nicosia and other Greek Cypriot teams have been able to play on the international stage unhindered, with Apoel recently entertaining the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid in the Champions League. Their Turkish Cypriot counterparts in the north of the island do not share the same rights – they cannot even play a friendly football match. Put simply, due to a fierce and very effective lobby by the Greek Cypriot authorities and their NGO’s, they have used the Cyprus Problem to deny their fellow Cypriots in the cruellest way possible. Despite having a football association which dates back to 1955 the standard of football in the Turkish Cypriot Super Lig is at best slightly better than Hackney Marshes level. This was not always the case, as Turkish Cypriot teams competed fiercely for the then Cypriot League winning Championships and Cups. In the early 1960’s when the inter-ethnic battles became too much the Turkish Cypriot footballers were locked out of stadiums denied their rights to play competitive football and the gap in quality has since grown to huge proportions.
There has been the odd Turkish Cypriot to grace English football. Danis Salman is a cousin of mine and is deeply proud to have represented England at every level up to and including U-21 level. Danis came over to England as a refugee when he was just a few years old and had he remained in Cyprus there is no way his talent would have been spotted. There is no way he would have represented England and gone on to make over 500 senior club appearances with the likes of Brentford and Millwall.
Genuine football fans all over the world will be touched by this story and I hope you will be riled into wanting to help Turkish Cypriot footballers achieve their dreams in the same way all other footballers around the world are able to. Get in touch with me if you would like to join the campaign to bring footballing equality to Turkish Cypriots. Thank you for reading this story.