Tight security in Cyprus for Turkish soccer team

Source:Xinhua Published: 2012-10-25 14:17:19

Cypriot authorities mounted a major security operation when Turkish soccer team Fenerbahce Istanbul arrived in the island on Wednesday afternoon for a UEFA Europa League match with local champions Athletic Union of Limassol (AEL).

Tight security measures will also be in place when the two teams meet for the first leg of their games on Thursday night to prevent possible politically-motivated violence between Greek and Turkish Cypriot football fans.

The Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus have been living separately since Turkey occupied the northern part of Cyprus in 1974, responding to a coup by Greek army officers.

Visiting each other's regions was made possible when Turkey, which controls the northern part of the island, allowed the opening of crossing points in 2003, in a move to ease mounting resentment among Turkish Cypriots who were secluded from the rest of the world.

Armed Greek Cypriot policemen escorted the bus in which the Turkish team traveled 45 kilometers from Larnaca Airport to Nicosia, where the match is to be played.

Nicosia's Police Chief Kypros Michaelides, describing the match as a high risk event, said almost 500 policemen will be in the soccer field to prevent violence.

He added that for the past several days the police had been in contact both with officials of AEL and Fenerbahce's organized fan groups in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus.

About 1,200 Turkish Cypriot fans have bought tickets for the match.

Michaelides said they had been cooperating by providing the names of the fans, their ticket numbers and the registration plates of the cars in which they will travel from the Turkish sector of Nicosia to the soccer field in the government controlled area of the capital. They will be escorted all the way by police.

Despite animosity generated by the Turkish occupation, Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been mixing peacefully after the opening of the crossing points. Several hundred Turkish Cypriots are being employed by Greek Cypriot businesses.

However, authorities are concerned that extremist elements from both sides may incite trouble at the soccer match.

The fans of the two teams will be physically separated.

Michaelides said fans will be allowed to carry Greek and Turkish flags into the field, but no flags of the breakaway state established in the occupied north and recognized only by Turkey will be allowed.

UEFA allows national colors into soccer fields but punishes actions of political or racist nature during matches.

The national flags of Greece and Turkey are considered legal since under the Cyprus constitution the Greek and Turkish communities have the right to bear the colors of their respective mother countries.

Posted in: Soccer

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