Football - Soccer-Associations on divided Cyprus close to merger - offical

NICOSIA, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Soccer officials in Cyprus said on Thursday they were close to an agreement on re-unifying the football governing bodies on either side of the ethnically-split island after decades of estrangement.


Turkish Cypriot soccer has been isolated from Cyprus's internationally recognised governing body, the Cyprus Football Association (CFA), for decades, and cannot compete internationally.

"For the first time after many years... We are very close to the historical day for the re-unification of Cyprus football," said Christakis Koutsokoumnis, president of the Cyprus FA.

Representatives of the CFA travelled to the north of the island on Thursday for talks with Turkish Cypriot soccer officials.

Another meeting between the two sides was expected to take place in March at the headquarters of FIFA in Zurich, Koutsokoumnis told Reuters.

The CFA is recognised as Cyprus's sole international football authority by soccer's world governing body FIFA.

Six Greek Cypriot clubs and two Turkish Cypriot ones founded the CFA in 1934 and played together in an all-island league until inter-communal tensions in 1955 when Greek Cypriots fought against British colonial rule.

Turkish Cypriot clubs decided to form their own federation and organise separate competitions.

The estrangement was deepened by fighting between the two communities in the 1960s, and a Turkish military invasion of Cyprus's north in 1974 after a brief Greek inspired coup.

Attempts for a political reunification of the two Cypriot sides has so far failed to yield results. (Reporting By Lakis Avraamides; Editing by Alison Wildey)

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