Tuesday, September 26, 2017


APOEL 0 Tottenham Hotspur 3 - UEFA Champions League, Group Stage

Nicosia has been in continuous habitation since the beginning of the Bronze Age 2500 years BC, when the first inhabitants settled in the fertile plain of Mesaoria. Nicosia later became a city-state known as Ledra or Ledrae, one of the twelve kingdoms of ancient Cyprus built by Achaeans after the end of the Trojan War. Remains of old Ledra today can be found in the Ayia Paraskevi hill in the south east of the city. By 330 BC, Ledra was recorded to be a small unimportant town. According to tradition, the city was rebuilt by Leucus, and named after him as "Leucoton" or "Lefkotheon. The main activity of the town inhabitants was farming. During this era, Ledra did not have the huge growth that the other Cypriot coastal towns had, which was primarily based on trade. In 1960 Nicosia became the capital of the Republic of Cyprus, a state established by the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In 1963, the Greek Cypriot side proposed amendments to the constitution, which were rejected by the Turkish Cypriot community. During the aftermath of this crisis, on 21 December 1963, intercommunal violence broke out between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Nicosia was divided into Greek and Turkish Cypriot quarters with the Green Line, named after the colour of the pen used by the United Nations officer to draw the line on a map of the city. On 15 July 1974, there was an attempted coup d'état led by the Greek military junta to unite the island with Greece. The coup ousted president Makarios III and replaced him with pro-enosis nationalist Nikos Sampson.

APOEL is the most popular football team in Cyprus and is the most successful with an overall tally of 26 championships, 21 cups and 13 super cups. The club was formed as POEL (Greek: ΠΟΕΛ; Ποδοσφαιρικός Όμιλος Ελλήνων Λευκωσίας, Podosferikos Omilos Ellinon Lefkosias, Football Club of Greeks of Nicosia) on 8 November 1926. APOEL's colours are blue and yellow. Blue symbolises Greece and yellow symbolises Byzantium. The logo is a blue and yellow shield with the name of the club written diagonally in blue. After the club won their 20th championship (2008–09 season), two stars were added above the logo to symbolise the 20 championship titles (one star for every ten championships won). Other than that, the badge has remained the same since the establishment of the club.

The Pancyprian Gymnastic Association Stadium (GSP Stadium), although small by international standards, it is the largest stadium in Cyprus, with a capacity of 22,859 and was opened in 1999. It serves as the home stadium for the two Nicosia's biggest clubs APOEL and Omonia. It is also the home stadium of the Cyprus national football team. A stadium under the same name, the old GSP Stadium, existed from 1902 until 1999 in the centre of Nicosia and had a capacity of 12,000. Designed by Theo. David Architects, the new GSP Stadium opened for use on 6 October 1999.

Having enjoyed refreshment following the U19 fixture in the afternoon, it was time to head off to the stadium for the main match. This venue is a fair distance from the city centre and public transport options are best described as limited. The taxi we had been using all day had seen better days, but it did the trick and enabled us to reach the ground with plenty of time before kick off (19:45 local time).

For once it was relatively easy to secure match programmes before entering the away supporters section. We even took the opportunity to sample the food in a supporter’s refreshment room along the main side of the ground. My choice was a cross between a hot dog and a sausage roll (pastry surrounding a frankfurter). This was good and bridged the gap until the obligatory kebab in the early hours back in town (quality grub that too).

Although not a straightforward as the scoreline suggests, Harry Kane’s perfect hat-trick (left, right and head) enabled Spurs to chalk up a second successive group stage victory. There would also be time for Mauricio Pochettino to bring on the 20-year-old winger, Anthony Georgiou – a Cypriot youth international – for his debut.

Our taxi driver had been unable to get into the car park after the match due to the sheer volume of traffic. However, this proved to be an advantage, as it would have taken a long time to get out! We met him where he had parked near a roundabout and within twenty minutes we were back in town to enjoy the locally brewed Keo beer.

Attendance: 16,324
Admission: 25 Euros
Programme: Free (16 pages)

Click here for a full set of photographs

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