TRNC Basketball Team Defeat Embargoes

 By Chris Elliott

 If you are a teenager living in Northern Cyprus, what could be better than having the opportunity to visit the UK. to play a sport that you love and also have the opportunity to experience a totally different culture?  Thanks to the Directors and coaches of the Soyer Sports Club and the Little Society of Kyrenia, this opportunity became a reality.

The Soyer Sports Club offers basketball training for boys of different ages and last year established a team for girls. They have schools in Lefkosa, Girne and Guzelyurt and have already organised summer and winter camps and friendly matches against teams in Turkey.  A trip to the UK. was quite a different matter however.

This exciting trip started from Guzelyurt where the Head Coach, Tahir  Soyer collected 6 players and arrived at 2:30am at Nicosia Atatürk Sports Centre where Club President Hakan Gökberk and Coach Ahmet Şahinsoy and 4 players joined the group for their journey and flight Soyer Club departing from Ercanfrom Ercan to  İstanbul Ataturk Airport.

Arriving at Ataturk Airport they met with Alkım Eyyam, the last team member, who was waiting for them. Departing now  at 10.40am on TAROM, the Romanian Airline from Istanbul they flew to Bucharest in Romania where they arrived at.12.00 noon..

When they arrived in the Bucharest transit lounge they had some difficulties as two of the team members had old style TRNC passports which the authorities did not recognise and did not want to allow the two lads to continue their jouney.

The other team members had new style TRNC passports with UK visas  or dual Cyprus Citizenship passports so they did not have a problem. After many officials arrived and had discussions, they decided they would allow the two lads to pass through with warm smiles and best wishes and hoped they would not have the same problem when they arrived in the UK which they did not.

Departing  Bucharest at 19.30pm they flew to Heahtrow arriving at 21.15pm local time where they collected 3 hire cars and the party then drove to the Jury’s Inn Hotel, London for a welcome rest.

Looking back, the Club has a mission statement for the children to be ‘happy and morally upright in the future through the sport of basketball’ and this prompted Hakan Gokberk, the Club’s President, to contact his old friend Boran Gazi a Turkish Cypriot, who has lived in Manchester since 2002, to see if there was any possibility of the team of 15 to 17 year old youngsters playing in a tournament in the UK. Boran being a lover of sport set to work contacting local team managers to see what could be arranged.

Little Society of KyreniaSoyer sport club 1After months of organising, and maintaining secrecy because of the political situation, Hakan plus 2 coaches and 11 players set off for Manchester on 29th August.

The whole of the trip was financed by the Little Society of Kyrenia who donated 35,000TL for the air fares and accommodation, food, sportswear and any other expenses.  The LSOK organisation was founded by a retired British businessman, who supports projects which will benefit the health, education and welfare of children and young people on the island.

After their long and tiring journey to the UK, the team drove north the following day and spent a blissful 6 hours in Alton Towers before finally arriving in Manchester.

It had been arranged for them to play one game against the North West Boys under 17 Team in Preston and the following day they took part in a tournament which had been created especially for them at the Wright Robinson College, Gorton, Manchester.

North West Under 17s play -Soyer Under 17
North West Under 17s play -Soyer Under 17

Winning games was too much of a challenge as the British teams had more experience but there is no doubt that it was a fantastic experience.  The boys (the coaches and helpers) get very excited when they talk about their trip to the Alton Towers Theme Park, playing snooker and going bowling and visiting the Manchester United Old Trafford stadium.

Boran Gazi wrote after the event: “I am very proud as a Turkish Cypriot, to see my countrymen competing here in the UK and Soyer Sports Club Players and Coaches demonstrated very good effort which demonstrate how good their basketball level is in North Cyprus. But, we should keep working hard for the young generations in North Cyprus. Our Turkish Cypriot players showed their skills in UK and now it’s time to create more international opportunities for them’

The team finally arrived back at Ercan airport just before midnight on Monday 2nd September and this is what the Club President, Hakan Gökberk had to say.

“To attend this kind of international organization broadened our vision. The interaction between the British and Turkish Cypriot community in Manchester encouraged and motivated us for future works. This event also proves that if there is an opportunity for Turkish Cypriot Youth to show their thoughts and skills abroad, they will become more self-confident and successful in their future lives. It is very important for us to continue these kinds of multi-cultural interactions between the nations. By doing so we will shape our future  by educating young generations in our country and create a young nation who first believe in themselves on every subject.

Nations coming together through sport
Nations coming together through sport

For these young and impressionable people involved, many who have not travelled outside the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus before, they must have been amazed at how other people live in freedom and enjoy life and they are hopeful that the British teams will make a visit to North Cyprus next year to enjoy the Turkish Cypriot friendship and hospitality through a sporting event.

Let’s pray that those who have been determined to maintain the Embargoes on the Turkish Cypriots and North Cyprus, realise they are breaching the human rights of people to have the freedom to travel and participate in activities with the world community.  Using selective history and mythology to prop up past dreams of dominance, does not bring people together in peace and harmony.

So let’s hope we see a change of heart at the forthcoming UN inspired meeting between the TRNC and Cyprus administrations in October to finally settle and bring to an end, the Cyprus problem.

Finally I would like to say thank you to all of those people with vision including the Soyer Sports Club who spend so much time working and helping children and young adults through sport, to become mature adults who may well, in turn, care for the wellbeing of future generations here in Cyprus.

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