🇨🇾 CYPRUS 🇨🇾
The Cyprus Championship was established in 1934. A Cyprus championship dominated by Nicosia’s two teams, APOEL Nicosia and Omonia Nicosia, as well as Anorthosis Famagusta.
The Cyprus championship is contested in two phases. The twelve best Cypriot teams meet twice in the first phase. At the end of this phase, the fourteen teams are divided into two groups, the first six play for the title and the last six for the relegation group. Next, the teams meet again twice and the points from both phases are accumulated. The team with the most points at the end of the two phases is crowned champion and qualifies for the Champions League. The 2nd, 3rd and winner of the Cyprus Cup go to the Europa League. Finally, he bottom two in the Cyprus championship have been relegated to the second division.
Football first appeared in Cyprus in the early 20th century thanks to the founding fathers of the game, the British. Initially played in the island’s schools, it soon became very popular and many clubs were formed, including Anorthosis Famagusta FC in 1911.
The clubs united in an official body necessary for the regulation of the sport. In September 1934, the Cyprus Football Association was formed and soon clubs were playing official matches. APOEL FC (in Nicosia) won the Cyprus championship from 1936 to 1940 before handing over to AEL Limassol FC in 1941.
Cyprus lost their first international match 3-0 to Israel in Tel Aviv on 23 July 1949, one year after joining the world football body FIFA. In November 1960, following independence, Cyprus (a former British colony) played its first official match, a 1-1 draw against Israel: a first leg of a 1962 FIFA World Cup qualifier. The return match ended in a 6-1 defeat.
In 1962, Cyprus became a member of UEFA. The following year, even more importantly, Cyprus won its first international match, beating Greece 3-1 on 27 November. Cypriot clubs made their debut in European competitions. On 8 September APOEL beat SFK Lyn of Norway 6-0 in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup but Anorthosis lost 3-0 to FK Partizan in the European Champion Clubs’ Cup three days later.
Cyprus‘ involvement in the UEFA Cup began in 1971, when Dighenis Morphou FC lost 4-0 away to AC Milan on 22 September. But the added competitiveness of these matches helped the development of the game on the island with the export of the best Cypriot players, especially to Greece. Recently, Andreas Stylianou and Leonidas Leonidou illustrated the trend by leaving APOEL for Panionios GSS and Olympiacos FC respectively. But they were not the first, as Panikos Kristallis (AEK Athens FC), Panikos Iakovou (Panathinaikos FC) and Pavlakis Vasiliou (Olympiacos FC) had already done so.
In 1974, the national team had one of its most famous victories: a semi-professional team beat a Northern Ireland team in Nicosia 1-0, featuring the legendary goalkeeper Pat Jennings and the 1968 European Footballer of the Year George Best. Despite other triumphs on home soil, the Cypriots had to wait until 1992 to record their first away win: 2-0 in the Faroe Islands. Qualifying results have improved considerably in recent years, with Cyprus drawing 1-1 with holders Denmark and picking up seven points in their EURO 96™ qualifying campaign. Four years later, the Cypriots missed out on a place at UEFA EURO 2000™ by one point despite wins over Spain and Israel.
In the qualifiers for UEFA EURO 2008, the Cypriots led by Greek coach Angelos Anastasiadis collected 14 points and scored 17 goals, their records in the competition.
In 2001, Greek side Panathinaikos FC paid over €10m for Cypriot player Michalis Konstantinou of Iraklis FC. Talent continues to grow on the island. Ioannis Okkas, the former national team captain, has exported his talent to the Greek and Spanish leagues with PAOK FC, AEK, Olympiacos and RC Celta de Vigo.
Since 2008, Cyprus have also been represented in the UEFA Champions League four times – once by Anorthosis Famagusta and three by APOEL – reaching the historic quarter-finals in 2012. Apollon Limassol FC, AEL Limassol, APOEL and AEK Larnaca FC have also competed in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League.
APOEL were outstanding in the Champions League and repeated the feat in 2016/17, winning their Europa League group, eliminating Athletic Club and falling to RSC Anderlecht.