July 22, 2011

Cyprus: Cypriot First Division – map showing clubs in the 2011-12 season, with 2010-11 attendances and all-time titles list.

Filed under: Cyprus — admin @ 5:56 pm

Cypriot 1st Division

The population of the Republic of Cyprus is around 803,000. The population of the Republic of Northern Cyprus is around 108,000 {both those figures are 2010 estimates}. As tiny and ethnically-partiitioned as it’s population is, Cyprus is home to a league that is currently ranked #20 in Europe by UEFA [May 2011 ranking], and will be ranked at #17 for 2012 {UEFA league coefficients, here}. That league is the Cypriot First Division, which was established in 1934-35. The two clubs that have pushed up the Cypriot league coefficient the most in recent years are APOEL, who qualified for the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League Group Stage; and Anorthosis Famagusta, who qualified for the 2008-09 Champions League Group Stage.

A brief history of the events leading up to the partition of Cyprus

Since 1974, the island of Cyprus has been de facto partitioned. This was following an invasion in July 1974 by Turkey, which was preceded by a failed coup attempt in the spring of 1974 that was backed by a Greek military junta.

At present, 59% of the island of Cyprus is under control of the Republic of Cyprus. 36% is under control of the Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is a nation that is diplomatically recognized by just one other nation – Turkey. The remaining 5% of the land area of the island is split between the UN buffer zone running across the island, and two air bases which are allocated to the United Kingdom as sovereign military bases. This is a vestige of the British Empire’s administration of Cyprus, which began after the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78). After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Britain formally annexed Cyprus.

It has been generally accepted that Greek Cypriots formed about 80% of the population of the island, while Turkish Cypriots formed about 18% (prior to Turkish settlers), with the remaining 2% being Christian minorities. In 1959, the Church of Cypress organized a referendum (boycotted by the Turkish Cypriot community), with over 90% voting in favor of enosis, or union, with Greece. The following year, 1960, Cyprus won independence after the Zürich and London Agreement between the United Kingdom, Greece, and Turkey. The UK retained the two air bases (which are shown on the map here). The Turkish Cypriot minority retained a permanent veto option within the government. By 1963, inter-communal violence had broken out, and as the 1960s went on, the violence increased. Right-wing governments in Greece, starting in 1967, fanned the flames, and this situation (which was opposed by pro-democratic elements in Greece at the time) led to the the 1973 ascension to power of an even further right military junta in Greece…and an overthrow of the Cyprus government was high on their agenda. In the spring of 1974, the President of Cyprus, Makarios III, was forced to flee the island, with a coup led by Greek officers of the Cyprus National Guard. A firebrand, the parliamentarian and Nicosia newspaper editor Nikos Sampson, who was vehemently anti-Turkish Cypriot, was put in power (Sampson lasted 8 days in power and ended up being the only person tried and convicted of crimes related to the coup). This led to the Turkish air and sea invasion in July, 1974. The island of Cyprus is still partitioned to this day. From Parikiaki, Cypriot Weekly Newspaper [the leading Greek Cypriot newspaper published in London], from 20 April 2011, ‘Greek Junta blamed for Cyprus war‘.


Photo credits – . .

The Cypriot First Division

The Cyprus top flight is called the Cypriot First Division. The league has 14 clubs in it, and, since 2007-08, has featured a second round, where the league is split into 3 groups of four (with the bottom two clubs in the first round of the season being automatically relegated). The 3 groups are named Group A, Group B, and Group C. The 4 Group A clubs compete for the championship and spots in European play. The 4 clubs in Group B compete for nothing, really. The 4 clubs in Group C compete to avoid being the third relegated club.

Nicosia is the capital and largest city in Cyprus, with a metro area population (Southern part only) of around 313,000 {2009 estimate}. There are two pretty large-sized clubs from Nicosia – APOEL and Omonia – both of whom have fan bases that can fill GSP Stadium (the stadium they share/see images above) to around 9 or 10,000 per game in good seasons, and 6 or 7,000 per game in bad seasons. APOEL, whose acronym translates from the Greek as Athletic Football Club of Greeks of Nicosia, play in royal blue-and-yellow/orange-vertically-striped jerseys. Omonia, whise full name is Omonia Nicosia Athletic club, have a 3-leaf clover on their crest that looks very much like the crest of the Athens-based Panathinaikos, and wear white with green trim. For decades, the two have been competing for being the most-titled Cypriot club, with APOEL currently having the edge with 21 Cypriot titles, including the 2011 title. Omonia have won 20 titles, including the 2010 title. The third force in Cypriot football is Anorthosis Famagusta, a club that has been a refugee from it’s home base since 1974. Anorthosis Famagusta have won 13 titles, their last in 2008. Although Anorthosis Famagusta have a crest that features the traditional Greek colors of royal blue and white, they play with a yellow and black kit. Since the Turkish invasion, Anothosis have played in several locations including the capital, and Anorthosis Famagusta now play in the third-largest city in Cyprus, Lanarca, which, with a population of just 72,000, is a pretty small municipality to be hosting 4 Cypriot First Division clubs, as it will be in 2011-12. The other 3 top flight clubs in town are two that were formed there – Alki Lanarca and AEK Lanarca – plus a newly-promoted-back club, Nea Salamis Famagusta, who, like Anorthosis, are also a refugee club. Between these 4 top flight clubs they average a cumulative attendance of around 10-12,000 per game, with the black-and-yellow vertically-striped Anothosis Famagusta able to draw between 4-6,000 per game, the green-and-yellow kitted AEK Lanarca able to draw around 3-5,000 per game, the red-and-blue vertically-striped Alki Lanarca able to draw around 1-2,000 per game, and the red-and-white vertically-striped Nea Salamis Famagusta also able to draw around 1-2,000 per game. For a municipality of less than 75,000, Lanarca is providing a pretty credible amount of support for the 4 top flight clubs it hosts.

There are only 3 other clubs that have won titles in Cypriot football that are currently active, and two of them are from the second-largest city in Cyprus, Limassol. [Limassol is on the southern coast of Cyprus, and has a metro area population of around 228,000.] The fourth-most-titled club in Cyprus is AEL Limassol, with 5 titles (last in 1968). Tied for fifth on the all-time list are Apollon Limassol, with 3 titles (last in 2006), and Olympiakos Nicosia, with 3 titles (last in 1971). Apollon Limassol play in white with blue trim and can draw between a range of from 3 to 6,000 per game. Apollon won their last title 5 years ago. AEL Limassol, who wear yellow-and-navy-blue-vertical-striped jerseys, can also draw in that 3 to 6K range, but they haven’t won a title in 40 years. Olympiakos Nicosia play with green-and-black-vertically-striped jerseys and draw in the 1-2,000 range, and haven’t won a title in 43 years.

There is one other Cypriot title-winner that is an active club, but since that club is a Turkish Cypriot club, it has not been part of the Cypriot league set-up for a long time…since 1955, and currently play in the non-FIFA-sanctioned Birinci Lig. That club is Çetinkaya Türk SK.. This club, who now play in the partitoned Northern section of the city of Nicosia, won the 1950-51 season of the Cypriot First Division.

There are 4 Cypriot teams still alive in Europe [as of 22 July 2011]. AEK Lanarca and Anorthosis Famagusta both won their Europa League Second qualifying round ties, and will compete in the Third qualifying round along with Omonia – the match-ups can be seen here {‘2011-12 UEFA Europa League/Third qualifying round‘}. Meanwhile, APOEL won their Champions League Second qualifying round tie, and will now play Slovan Bratislava in the next round, ‘2011-12 UEFA Champions League/Third qualifying round‘}.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at, ‘Cypriot First Division‘.
Base map from, here.
Thanks to, for the Cyprus Country Map.

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