Nicosia is the only European capital, and possibly the world, without an airport. Well, having it has it, but frozen in time, and with the ghostly aspect of a zone victim of a warlike conflict that split this tourist island of the Mediterranean in two. There is only one plane left in its tracks today flooded with bushes and herbs, a “Hawker Siddeley Trident”, of the company Cyprus Airways, which never took off. It is a passenger aircraft corroded by the passage of time, without doors, and with the marks of the bullets still in sight that return to July 1974, when the Turkish Army invaded the northern part of the country causing the creation of the Turkish Republic of the North of Cyprus, a state inhabited by 300,000 people but without international recognition, with the exception of the Ottoman country. A territory under the Turkish flag, although with inverted colors: the waning moon and the five-pointed star are red, not white. There, against APOEL, wants to close Madrid today to the second round of the Champions League.
To the south was the Republic of Cyprus, a country officially recognized and a member of the European Union. Almost a million people under the umbrella of “enosis”, a movement of annexation to Greece that is still valid today and whose fullness reached the middle of the last century, when Cyprus was still a British colony. Hence, his acute sense of hatred towards those who over fifty years ago took away part of his territory, leaving a border of 180 kilometers in length, today demilitarized by the Green Line, a neutral zone guarded by more than a thousand blue helmets of the UN and that crosses the own Nicosia: “To go from a country to another there are border crossings, as it happened between Spain and Portugal in the last century. They are control towers with an old look, and you have to pass two, one Greek and one Turkish or vice versa, depending on the area of the island you enter. If you do it on foot, they do not charge you, but in the car you have to pay 25 euros “, explains Roberto Lago, former player of Celta and Getafe and today one of the three Spaniards who is in APOEL.
“In the club we are forbidden to move to the north. It is not that it is crazy, but they advise against it to avoid dangerous situations. The Cypriot citizen defends his country, but he feels Greek, that’s why they are so hurt with the Turks. For them it is difficult to accept that another country has invaded their space, but they do not have a level army to get into a war against a state that is under the protection of Turkey and its powerful military arsenal, “said the Galician player, one of the almost 300 Spaniards living in Cyprus, most of them footballers and their relatives.
In Nicosia, the separation between both countries is staged in different areas with walls of bags of earth and rusted drums, as in the commercial “Ledra Street”, central street of Nicosia where, in addition to the most common border crossing for pedestrians, you can find different restaurants corseted by this last wall of Europe: “There is hatred because they occupy a place that is ours. We do not want the Turks in our country and the UN does not do anything to get them out of here. They say that their mission is one of peace, but they do not understand that they have stolen part of our territory, “explains Nektarios, regent of one of the culinary businesses on Ledra Street.
A fanatic derby
The political division is not the only one of Cyprus or its capital. There is also football, in a country where the sport does not take prisoners. At least that was the case in the second half of the last century, when fans of APOEL and Omonia, the great clubs of Nicosia, came to kill themselves victims of fanaticism: “Now everything is calmer. The fans can not go to the opposite field, to avoid altercations. This happened last Friday, when we won in his field 1-3. It is one of the hottest derbies in Europe, “explains Lago.
The rivalry between both teams comes from 1948, when a sector of APOEL members, of communist ideas and fed up with the club’s support for Greek nationalism, founded Omonia. Since then, not only was a club divided, but also coworkers, groups of friends, and even members of the same family. The fan of APOEL is seen as a fascist, a fan of a rich club that has bought from the arbitration establishment. The Omonia, as an outdated communist and victimizer for not accepting that his team is far below APOEL: “They are the two best teams in the country, but APOEL is the millionaire club and Omonia belongs to the lower middle class. They have more social mass, but in the last two decades the one that has won the most titles is APOEL. Radicalism is such that if you stop for the police for any offense on the road, the first thing that asks you is who you are fond of. If it matches your tastes, it does not fine you, but otherwise it does. It has happened to me, “recalls Roberto, who warns Madrid:” Here there is more level than you think, and they will not have it easy. Borussia only drew a draw and Tottenham won us 3-0, but it was a very deceiving result ». This is Nicosia, a political and football wall.
21 Spaniards in the Cypriot League
Cyprus is a very attractive country for the sun lover, the Mediterranean gastronomy and the paradisiacal beaches. And also a perfect claim for the Spanish footballer who seeks to open borders or a golden retirement, both in the field and outside it. There are a total of 21 Spaniards who play in the Cypriot league, with a majority in the AEK Larnaca (9), a team coached by the San Sebastian Iñigo Idiákez and who last season won the second place. In the APOEL, white rival tonight, play three. The Extremadura Jesús Rueda, the canary Nauzet Pérez, and the Galician Roberto Lago: “Here there is a lot of quality of life, it pays well and the Spanish soccer player is treated with star stripes. I’ve been a season and a half and my family and I feel very identified with the life of this country ».