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Cyprus gearing up for historic match against Turkish club
2005-07-21 15:59:05

By Lakis Avraamides

NICOSIA, July 21 (Reuters) - Police and security forces were meeting on Thursday to ensure next week's politically sensitive Champions League qualifier between Anorthosis Famagusta of Cyprus and Turkey's Trabzonspor passes without any trouble.

The clubs meet in the first leg of the second qualifying round of Europe's elite club competition next Tuesday in Nicosia with the second leg at Trabzon in Turkey the following week.

It is the first time since Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 that teams from the two countries will face each in a senior UEFA competition, although Cypriot and Turkish sides have met in other sports including basketball, handball and tennis.

High-ranking officials from the police, security forces, Cyprus FA and the clubs were expected to base security plans on those adopted when Israel's Maccabi Haifa used Nicosia's stadium as its home ground for Champions League matches two years ago.

They have to decide whether any Turkish fans will be allowed into the game and how the tickets will be distributed. The match is being played in Nicosia as no other stadium in Cyprus comes up to UEFA standards for European matches.

The authorities will also announce at a news conference on Friday whether any Turkish Cypriots will be allowed to attend the match after they requested about 1,500 tickets for the game.

Cypriot champions Anorthosis reached the second qualifying round after a 2-1 aggregate win over Dinamo Minsk of Belarus. Trabzonspor enter the competition at the second qualifying round stage after finishing as Turkish league runners-up last season.

NEVER PLAYED

Although the matches will be the first between teams from the two countries, it is not the first time their clubs have been drawn together.

In 1986 APOEL Nicosia were paired with Besiktas of Istanbul in the European Cup but the tie never took place after APOEL asked UEFA to move both matches to neutral grounds.

UEFA refused, ordering the games to take place as scheduled and APOEL decided, following orders from the government, to withdraw from the competition.

They were subsequently suspended for two years from any UEFA competition, but since then tensions have eased even though the island is still divided with more than 40,000 Turkish soldiers on the north of the island.

Anorthosis was formed in Famagusta in 1911 and played there until the city was occupied in 1974. It is now on the northern side of the Green Line, the UN buffer zone that divides Cyprus. The team now play their home matches in Larnaca.

Anorthosis chairman Andreas Panteli said on Thursday: "These two matches will make history for both Cypriot football and Anorthosis. We are covered by different kinds of emotions but we are going to play football and do our best."

Georgian Temuri Ketsbaia, who has also played for Newcastle United and AEK Athens and is now player player-coach at Anorthosis, said his team face a tough task.

"Trabzonspor are a better side but we are going to try our best over both legs. We have another week and I am sure that my team will play better than against Dinamo Minsk."

Ishan Delerioglu of Trabzonspor said his team were favourites to advance, adding: "These two matches are historical for both sides and we look forward to them.

"Anorthosis are very good and we will take them very seriously."

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