Official Language: Greek and English (Turkish in the north)
Borders: Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (not officially recognised)
GNP per Capita: $9,400 (37th in world)
Main Airport: Lamaka – Cyprus
The Island of Cyprus, which rises from a central plateau to a high point at Olympus, lies south of Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus was partitioned in 1974, following an invasion by Turkish troops. The south of the island is the Greek Cypriot area. The north is known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus but this area is only recognised internationally by Turkey. The climate, unsurprisingly is marvellous – hot and sunny all year round.
The Marfin Laiki League or Cypriot Championship First Division is the highest football league in Cyprus. As of 2007 it is sponsored by Laiki Bank. The league is entitled to one entrant in the UEFA Champions League, which is the League champions who enter in the first qualifying round. The winner of the Cypriot Cup and runner-up in the league automatically enters the UEFA Cup first qualifying round. If the cup winners are also league champions, then the losing cup finalists are granted a UEFA Cup berth. If the cup winners qualify for Europe by their league position, then the third-place team in the league qualifies for the UEFA Cup. The highest placed team that has not qualified for the UEFA Cup is allowed the opportunity to compete in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, provided they have applied to enter the Cup in the next season.
The First Division has had 14 teams since the 1989-90 season, apart from the 1994-95 season when the league was reduced temporarily to 13 teams. For some years there has been discussion about reducing the number of teams in the first division This is partly driven by some of the mid-table clubs not being involved for much of the season in either the Championship or qualification for Europe, or relegation.
Champions since 1990
1990-91 Apollon Limassol
1992-93 AC Omonoia
1993-94 Apollon Limassol
1994-95 Anorthosis Famagusta
1996-97 Anorthosis Famagusta
1997-98 Anorthosis Famagusta
1998-99 Anorthosis Famagusta
1999-00 Anorthosis Famagusta
2000-01 AC Omonoia
2002-03 AC Omonoia
2004-05 Anorthosis Famagusta
2005-06 Apollon Limassol
2007-08 Anorthosis Famagusta
2008-09 APOEL FC
APOP won the cup, beating AEL in the final whilst Atrimotos, AEK and ALKI facing relegation and leaving Larnaca without a club in the top flight next season. In the 2009/10 season, the following clubs will participate in the top league.
AEK and Alki Larnaca – Larnaca – Zenon Stadium – Capacity: 13,032. AEK are one of the newer teams in the league, with just one Cypriot cup to their name in 2004. They share the stadium with Alki who have been a mid table team since their formation in 1948. Both were relegated at the end of the 2008/09 season but the stadium is used by other first division teams on occasion and is located in the western suburbs of the city, close to the ring road.
Doxa Katakopias – Peristerona – Peristerona Stadium – Capacity: 4,000. The club are actually from Katokopia but since 1974 it has been under Turkish rule so they had to move to Peristerona. They are now in their 2nd season at the highest level of Cypriot football.
AEL, Aris and Apollon Limassol –Limassol – Tsirion Stadium – Capacity: 13,152. Located on the outer ring road of the city. AEL are 5 times champions, although the last time was in 1968. Apollon were last champions in 2006 and are one of the best supported teams in Cyprus. Aris were promoted to the top league in 2009. The stadium was built in 1975.
Enosis Neon Paralimni – Paralimni – Paralimni Stadium – Capacity: 5,800. Still waiting for their first ever honour although they have cup runners up on four occasions. The club finished 6th last season.
AE Paphos and APOP Kinyras Peyias – Paphos – Paphiako Stadium – Capacity: 11,000. Located on the edge of the city of Paphos and close to the main international airport. AE were promoted back to the top league in 2008. APOP have been there a season longer.
Ethnikos Achnas – Achnas – Dasaki Achnas Stadium – Capacity: 4,000. Based in the village of Achna, the team have played in the Intertoto Cup on five occasions and in 2006 they actually reached the UEFA Cup proper. Achna is located just north of the UN buffer zone in the Famagusta region.
Anorthosis Famagusta and Nea Salamis-Larnaca – Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium – Capacity: 9,319. Actually based in Larnaca due to the “Turkish Issue”. Dominant team of the last ten years with 6 championships. Tenants Nea Salamis were promoted in 2009.
APEP Pitsilia – Lakatamia – Lakatamia Stadium – Capacity: 3,000. A tiny team based in a village on the outskirts of Limassol. They broke records in 2006/07 amasing only 8 points in the top flight, although they were promoted back up again last season.
APOEL Nicosia and Omonia –Nicosia – Neo GSP Stadiom – Capacity: 23,400. The national stadium, and newest stadium is home to APOEL, the most successful and best supported teams in Cyprus. Omonia were dominant in the 1980’s and are the most popular team in the country but only made a return to the top league in May 2009.
Both Easyjet and British Airways fly from London Gatwick to Paphos on a daily basis, and from London Heathrow to Larnaca.