Merkis: “I don’t cry, I am Greek”
APOEL centre-back Giorgos Merkis, who celebrated with the Greek flag after defeating Qarabag in the UEFA Champions League, spoke about a conversation he had with an opposing player.
It is well known that Azerbaijan consider themselves a brother nation to Turkey with both countries supporting each other in many ways. In general they do have a sympathetic stance against the self-proclaimed “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, however Azerbaijan have never moved on recognizing it, due to the fear of diplomatic retaliation of the Republic of Cyprus.
In the last few years, APOEL and Apollon came across Azerbaijani opposition such as Neftci Baku and Gabala. Both times Turkish flags, as well as flags of the “pseudostate” were presented by the Azerbaijani fans causing tension. This time was no exception as both a Turkish and a “pseudostate” flag made their appearance next to an Azerbaijani one. It is worth mentioning that Qarabag is Turkish owned with both the president and vice-president being Turkish.
Mixing politics with the beautiful game is never a nice thing, and even in this case the background is too strong to ignore. In general both games happened without any significant issues. However, after this game, angry Qarabag fans tried to attack the bus with APOEL’s travelling fans, although the incident was quickly dissolved without any Cypriot supporters getting injured.
After the big win, APOEL centre-back Giorgos Merkis celebrated passionately holding the Greek flag. Merkis noted the importance of this success when describing a small dialogue he had with a Qarabag player during the game: “On one occasion I asked for a foul, their striker turned and told me do not cry like…a woman. I told him ‘I do not cry, I am Greek’. He answered by saying this: “Do you remember what the Turks did to you?” I replied by saying that yes, I remember, but you will see what happens to you today. That is why I celebrated with the Greek flag.”