CYPRIOT international footballers warned they would not play for the national team if three recently naturalised foreign players were called to the squad, it emerged yesterday.

In a written statement, the footballers said they had nothing against their three colleagues but they were concerned about the future of local players who have become a rare sight in Cypriot stadiums in recent years.

“National teams are the last bastion left for Cypriot footballers since the teams have lost their Cypriot character completely,” said the island’s football players association (PASP) in a statement. 

Most Cypriot teams currently rely on foreign players – mainly EU nationals – with Cypriot members of the team consigned to the bench.

There were games last season where at least one of the two teams did not have a single Cypriot in their starting line-up.

PASP has reacted to a recent government decision to grant citizenship to three foreign players at the recommendation of the Cyprus Football Association and Greek team coach Nicos Nioblias.

The three are APOEL’s Helio Pinto, Anorthosis’ Vincent Laban – both in Cyprus since 2005 – and AEL’s Dossa Junior. He arrived in Cyprus in 2006.

It is not the first time this has happened although there had not been any public reaction previously.

There were two foreign nationals on the team’s roster last season – Montenegrin-born Sinisa Dobrasinovic and Greek Savvas Poursaitides.

The association also criticised parliament, specifically the interior committee, which failed to keep its promise to brief them before any decisions were taken.

PASP said the move was completely wrong, “a half measure with huge risks for the future of young Cypriot footballers.”

“He (Nioblias) knew well where he came to work and what the difficulties were but instead of supporting the players … they chose the easy way of naturalisations,” PASP said.

They said the national team belongs to Cypriot players and should be made up of footballers who come from the youth national teams and not by importing foreigners. Young internationals must be supported and promoted in their teams and not disregarded the way we see today,” PASP said.

 

 

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