President Mustafa Akıncı has expressed his disappointment over developments regarding the Mağusa Türk Gücü-Nea Salamina football match that was supposed to take place in the mixed village of Pile.
Akıncı told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday that he had accepted the invitation extended to him by the organisers in January after he was told that the match would take place in the buffer zone, but later on he was informed it would take place on the Greek Cypriot side of Pila village.
He said that he would have gladly attended the match if the organisers had remained true to their initial plans.
“Recently, as you may have followed from the press, I reconfirmed that I would be attending. Then on Friday my spokesman received a call from the Greek Cypriot leader Anastasiadess’ office asking him how I would be crossing over to attend the match. I was then informed that the game was in fact not taking place at the village’s pitch but at a separate pitch located on the outer ring of the village in South Cyprus”.
Akıncı said that the organisers and village mukhtars had then attempted to change the venue but had faced an obstacle from the UN.
“Two days ago we were informed that preparations were being made to play the match at the Pile stadium. We were then informed in writing by the organisers that the venue of the match had been changed due to the UN’s security concerns”, he said.
President Akıncı said that he had met with the President of the ‘Peace and Sports’ organisation Joel Bouzou who had told him that they understood the Turkish Cypriot side’s sensitivities and would launch an initiative with the UN to have the match played at the initial venue.
“It seems Mr Bouzou’s efforts did not succeed”, he stressed.
Akıncı pointed out that he, as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, did not have any objections to attending events in the South.
He, however, said that he had attended such events in the past on the condition that such organisations were held on both sides.
“Two years ago I attended cultural events in South Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot leader crossed over to the North for a similar event. On all occasions, we crossed to the other side in cars with normal civilian number plates. In this case, the bi-communal event was organised in Pile in the buffer zone and since there will be no second match it would not have been right for me to attend”, he said.
President Akıncı also criticised the UN for not helping facilitate such an organisation.
He said that the incident had cast a shadow on the UN’s role on the island.
“There was only going to be several hundred people attending…not even a thousand…and the UN telling us that it could not provide security for the event is totally unacceptable”, he said.
Akıncı also said ensuring and defending the political equality of the Turkish Cypriot people was his priority.
“There are many criticisms as to why such a big fuss was made over this issue. I am here to defend the equal rights of the Turkish Cypriot people. If we have a game in the South we will have a game in the North. If not we will have equal treatment in the UN buffer zone. If we choose to undermine or ignore such incidents it could have serious consequences for us in the future”, he said.
Responding to a question, the President complained that the Greek Cypriot side and its institutions refused to actively cooperate with any institution in the North in fear that it will pave the way for the North’s international recognition.
Asked by the press to respond to President Akıncı’s refusal to attend the match, President Nicos Anastasiades, who did attend, refused to comment. He only said that “I prefer to watch a sporting event that aims to improve the environment and remember the good old times where our two teams had no troubles. I hope that we will live through the same beautiful moments soon”.