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Divided Cyprus moves toward soccer unity

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) - Soccer leaders in Cyprus edged toward unification Tuesday, though their provisional deal still left Turkish-Cypriot clubs without access to the Champions League.

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The tentative agreement offered hope for a political breakthrough on the Mediterranean island, which has been divided since 1974 into an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south and a Turkish-speaking north.

Still, the accord fell short of inviting clubs from the north into the league organized by the Cyprus Football Association, whose champions and cup winners qualify for Europe's top competitions.

''It doesn't satisfy me 100 percent, but later meetings will be able to satisfy me 100 percent,'' Cyprus Turkish Football Association president Hasan Sertoglus said through a translator.

After nearly 60 years of separation for the two soccer bodies, Sertoglu hailed the progress which should lead to his organization joining the CFA, which is a member of FIFA and the Union of European Football Associations.

''We are excited and happy,'' Sertoglu said by telephone from FIFA headquarters in Zurich. ''It can help politicians to make progress as well.''

Cyprus's head of state, President Nicos Anastasiades, expressed his ''deep satisfaction'' with the agreement, which must be ratified at the assemblies of both soccer bodies.

The Cyprus FA president, Costakis Koutsokoumnis, called it a historic day for the nation's soccer, though his organization cautioned against drawing political meaning.

''The arrangement concerns only football matters and doesn't constitute a precedent for the political problem of Cyprus, and it is also temporary until a Cyprus settlement can be achieved,'' the CFA said in a statement.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who attended the meeting with UEFA President Michel Platini, praised the parties for their ''outstanding contribution to this milestone arrangement.''

''Both the Cyprus Football Association and the Cyprus Turkish Football Association are today providing the whole world with an excellent example of how football can build bridges and bring people together after a long period of conflict,'' Blatter said in a statement.

The island's soccer bodies split in 1954 following a Greek-Cypriot uprising against British colonial rule. Cyprus was divided in 1974, when Turkey invaded the north after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

''Obviously, this is the first step. We have some problems which must be resolved,'' Sertoglu said. ''We will not have a separate national team but we hope in the future we will be a unified league.''

Based in the divided capital city Nicosia, Cetinkaya would have ambitions to become the first Turkish-Cypriot club to play in UEFA club competitions.

---

Associated Press writer Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

  
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