Anorthosis returns to a hero's welcome
Larnaca, Aug 4 (CNA) -- Anorthosis Famagusta, the Cypriot football team that secured a place last night in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League by knocking out a Turkish team, returned home in the early hours of Thursday to an unprecedented hero's welcome.
Thousands of fans, supporters of Anorthosis and other Cyprus football clubs, were at Larnaca airport to welcome the players, their player coach Timour Ketsbaia, board members and about 100 fans who had travelled with the team to Turkey, for the match against Trabzonspor.
The Turkish team won the match by 1-0 but Anorthosis was the team to qualify because of its 3-1 win in the first leg in Nicosia last week.
''We are delighted, we are very proud to have qualified for the next round of the Champions League. We have made a lot of people very happy,'' Andreas Panteli, chairman of Anorthosis said on arrival at Larnaca airport, where fire engines formed an arch as they sprayed the aircraft that carried the team back to Cyprus.
Anorthosis was faced with a hostile climate in Turkey created by Trabzonspor fans who viewed victory against the Cypriot team as a ''national cause''.
The ''Huseyin Avni Aker'' stadium was full to capacity with Turkish fans, waving flags of Turkey but also of the breakaway ''state'' proclaimed in the Turkish occupied northern part of Cyprus.
This was the first time a Cypriot football team had played against a Turkish team, since Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus and Anorthosis was forced to fly to Trabzon via Damascus because Turkey does not allow direct flights from the Republic.
''Today we are celebrating, tomorrow we get back to work for our next qualifying match against Glasgow Rangers,'' Panteli said.
Ketsbaia said this was a very important victory and thanked everybody for their support.
''We are very happy. The players believed they could make it, here and in Turkey, and they have,'' he said.
Goalkeeper Antonis Georgallides thanked all the fans who welcomed Anorthosis at Larnaca airport at 4.30 this morning.
He said this was ''a historic day'' for Anorthosis, which will be remembered by all football fans in Cyprus.
The triumphant team was met at the airport by Famagusta Mayor Yiannakis Skordis, thousands of fans, and airport employees.
Celebrations throughout Cyprus began immediately after the end of the game and continued until the early hours of the morning. The achievement of Anorthosis is hailed with banner headlines on the front pages of today's dailies.