The team that unites us

The team that unites us

AGONAsport’s Cyprus contributor, Marios Antoniou, talk about the new movement “The team that unites us” regarding the Cypriot National team.

Watch Angelos Anastasiadis' first game in charge of Greece when they host Finland in a must win Nations League match on Thursday, November 15h. Details here.

On Monday November 5th, the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) announced a series of steps that aim to strengthen the support towards the Cypriot National team. As it is described on the CFA’s official website, the direct target is to bring as many people as possible to the upcoming games with Bulgaria and Norway, November 16th and 19th respectively at the GSP Stadium for the UEFA Nations League competition. The long term target is to bring all the Cypriot fans close to the team and create steady support, something that has never happened in the past.

This campaign is called “Ethniki, the team that unites us”. Coach Ran Ben Shimon, Cypriot national team legends Michalis Konstantinou and Konstantinos Charalambides, and current players visited schools and talked to students all over the island. The talks focussed on how important it is to represent your country and that without the broad support from the people, the team will not be able to succeed. The last few days, pictures and videos from these visits were posted and promoted throughout social media channels of the CFA.

Never before has the CFA done something like this. Other smaller efforts have taken place in the past, but mostly individual efforts by fans have been more successful than official efforts up until now. In another segment, invitations for the games were sent to all former Cypriot national team players, as well as to all the academies that participate in the CFA leagues. With this movement instead of asking why now, I am simply saying it’s about time.

Ethniki Kyprou, the forgotten team. Last summer while I was visiting Cyprus, I was desperately looking to buy a national team jersey for myself and my fellow AGONAsport writer Andreas Mantzas. No big sports store had them, and not even the Cypriot Platini, who owns the largest sports memorabilia collection in the world, knew where you could find one. Disappointed, I said maybe next time. Then early this fall before the beginning of the Nations League, the CFA announced that they worked with Macron to design a new jersey which is now offered for the price of 50 euros. Although that is not a cheap price, at least it is now easy to find a jersey for purchase and next time I visit Cyprus, jerseys will come back with me. This shows that there was a lack of a marketing plan and any serious effort to promote the national team.

The price of an individual ticket has been for some time now settled at a reasonable 10 euros, from time to time certain friendly games were free. In an effort to bring families and kids to the games, family tickets are offered for 15 euros and that is for two adults and two kids under 12 years old. Since August, to attend the games you must have a Fan ID card, which is opposed by teams’ organized fans, and despite cutting down the incidents of fan violence, it resulted in very low attendance in the league games. Just as it is for league matches, a Fan ID card is required even to attend a national team fixture. This is a relatively easy process, but still time consuming and a deterrent to fans. This is the team that represents our island, give it to the people, put aside profits, get the people to come, help them come, and as a result, will benefit the national team in the end. Why not have a 5 euro general admission, or give discounted tickets to soldiers and students and get the youth in attendance? This campaign is moving in the right direction, but surely there is more to do.

The curse of being the national team that represents a country and not a nation plagues the Cypriot team. Cypriot sports are always mixed with politics, or politics infiltrate sports... For those that do not know, welcome to the Cypriot reality. Many people do not consider that Cyprus represents them, because the real Ethniki is the Greek one. Now we move into dangerous waters. Are we Greek Cypriots, Greeks, Cypriots, or are we all the three and we just pick what we find more suitable? I am not speaking about the majority of Cypriot fans, but knowing that, it is known that the politics factor affects even this. As for me, I support Cyprus first, then Greece, my country’s team and my nation’s team that is how I see it.

Back to the “the team that unites us” movement... Yes, the national team must unite us. We should be proud to wear our national team’s jersey. We should go and support our boys, in an organized matter, with pure love to the game and to our country. Set aside what divides us and focus on what unites us. This campaign is making a reality many thoughts and ideas that from time to time has been discussed with friends and co-writers. Still, there is a long way to go but definitely things are getting started and that is undoubtedly a positive development.

In conclusion, I want to wish good luck to our team in their upcoming games. I wish I was there to support the team and hope that people will respond to this effort and come out in attendance. Also I would like to make a call to our Cypriot friends worldwide to come close and engage in discussion with AGONA’s Cypriot team (me and my fellow New Jersey colleague Andreas Mantzas). Their is much discussion online for the Greek Ethniki, so let us come together too and let’s make the Cypriot Ethniki “the team that unites us.”

Watch CFA’s promo video for the upcoming games:

 

by Marios Antoniou

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