Exclusive interview for our ultras movement from the Hungarian fanzine Vendégszektor.
Thank you for accepting our inquiry! You are the first Cyprian group to be featured in our fanzine. Please introduce your club first. Anorthosis was founded in Famagusta, however it had to relocate itself to Larnaca, which is 50 kilometres away. Could you tell us more about the reasons and the history of this unusual occurrence? How’s the situation in Famagusta?
Anorthosis was established in Famagusta on 30 January 1911. At that time, the island of Cyprus was under the dominion of the British Empire. Anorthosis was established by Greek Cypriots, who were asking for union with the motherland Greece. The name of the club was inspired by the phrase “the rise up of the nation”, namely rise up means Anorthosis. At this time, the main purpose of the club’s establishment was the education of its members. It’s remarkable that during the liberation struggle against the British Empire (1955 to 1959), Anorthosis was highly involved to the point that British colonists blew up and demolished the club’s main building on the 8th of July 1958, after some violent riots. Finally, in 1960 Cyprus established its independence but shortly after, in 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus and until this day is illegally occupying 37% of the country. After the invasion, which resulted in the occupation of the city of Famagusta together with the rest of the north part of the island, Anorthosis lost its home along with 180 thousand refugees. Currently, only 15% of Famagusta is under the control of the Republic of Cyprus.
We live for the day we will go back to our hometown, and therefore we call our club firstly as Famagusta and then as Anorthosis, as we are the legal and rightful owners of the city. We will never forget our roots and we will never accept any change in our club’s name or emblem, which symbolizes the Greek national flag with the nine vertical stripes.
Your group was founded in 1994. Can you tell us more about the circumstances of this event? How was the supporters’ life around Anorthosis before your founding and how did it change since? Who inspired you in the first days and what was the purpose of the foundation?
Some years after the war and occupation in 1974, which caused our parents and grandparents to lose their homes and turned them into refugees in their own country, a group of supporters formed the first ‘Anorthosis Supporters Association’ in 1980 with the aim to gather again the members of Anorthosis which were living now scattered in the remaining part of the island.
At the beginning of the 90s, football fans in Cyprus started to organize ultras groups. Then in 1994, the year Anorthosis Famagusta won its first championship after the Turkish invasion, the group ΜΑΧΗΤΕC was firstly formed. It had the purpose to support Anorthosis and create an atmosphere during the matches with pyro, banners, and continuous chanting. Since then, our supporter’s club went through a lot withstanding many difficult times which made us stronger and wiser through the years! ΜΑΧΗΤΕC means Fighters in English and represents our continuous fight and our ideology for the return to our hometown Famagusta.
Strong impact in our tribune had the subgroup called Ultras Famagusta which was formed in 2008 with the main purpose to reshape and reform our club with the ultras mentality and to organize our tribune during the support of Anorthosis games. Immediately, the organization and enthusiasm in our stand started to become more passionate and more creative, game by game, for many years to follow. Now we have numerous, organized branches and subgroups around the island, under the main group MAXHTEC.
Our ultimate goal is to finally, one day manage to go back to Famagusta and have our own house and main supporters base in our OWN CITY- FAMAGUSTA! Our purpose is to keep the memory of Famagusta and to educate the young generation of Anorthosis to know our history and what Anorthosis truly represents!
Who are your biggest rivals? Which matches are the most memorable for you since your group’s existence?
Our biggest rivals are the problems that arise from the fact that we are refugees in our own country and do not have a permanent home. The struggle to overcome all the difficulties that we face is our main rival and it is also what makes us better and stronger.
Our biggest rivals in sports have mainly been the two big clubs of Nicosia. There are many memorable games thanks to Anorthosis giving us great moments. Most importantly we can remember the European games including winning a turkish team after a dramatic game in turkey and becoming the first Greek Cypriot side to achieve this and go on to. Also the game we became the first team from Cyprus to qualify to the group stages of the Champions League and we had some very good games in the group itself.
The fans of Anorthosis are an integral part of the success of the team and in many difficult times for the club, both on and off the field, the fans have helped to overcome huge difficulties and achieve great things for the history of the club and the Greeks of Cyprus.
If we are right, you have friendship with Dinamo Moscow and OFK Beograd. How did these friendships form and how can you preserve them in spite of the long geographical distance between each of you? Are there any good contacts in Cyprus?
Our story started when one of us discovered the glorious history of OFK Beograd (former BCK – Belgrade Sports Club) and the incredible similarities we have: both clubs were established in 1911, our main current Ultras groups (MAXHTEC and Blue Union) were organized in 1994, our colors are the blue and white but even more than those, we share similar club history with many difficulties and injustices (Unfortunately, OFK has lost its glamor in recent years). So in 2013, some guys from our group traveled to Belgrade for a game of OFK for the semi-finals, which was our first in-person contact. After a while, representatives of Blue Union came to Cyprus to make the brotherhood official. On the other hand, OFK Belgrade and Dynamo Moscow have had already strong relations between them. Then, by coincidence, Dynamo had to play in Cyprus two games in a row for the Europa League. We supported Dynamo in both games along with the Russians and we celebrated together in our fan clubs and pubs. This is how the brotherhood triad was established and since then, we have had many meetings despite the long distance between us. Our brotherhood represents something much more than just football! It is becoming stronger and stronger and we are proud that we have created this bond between us and we honor and promote this in every opportunity we have.
Does your group have any official political standpoint or ideology?
Our ideology is ANORTHOSIS, our political standpoint is FAMAGUSTA.
We Hungarians know as much about your country that the Northern part is under Turkish occupation and that it is a nice place for holiday. This is not much. Please share with us more information which we doubtlessly should know about Cyprus. What are your feelings towards Greece and hellenism, and what do you think about the Turkish influence?
Cyprus was settled by Mycenaean Greeks in the 2nd millennium BC. Since then and despite the numerous conquerors and foreign oppression in the island, people preserved the Greek identity. However, during the Ottoman Empire and their dominance on the island from 1571 to 1878, many Turks settled, and at the same time, many locals were forced to convert to Islam. This created the Turkish Cypriot community in Cyprus, a minority in the current population.
After the liberation struggle against the British Empire that ended with the “independence” of Cyprus, conflicts between Greek Cypriots and the minority community of Turkish Cypriots started, guided by the British with their famous strategy of divide and conquer. It is important to note here that the British still have military bases on the island so you can make your conclusions. Anyway, after these conflicts, Turkey took the chance and invaded Cyprus once again! The main population of the island in 1974 (year of the invasion) was 78% Greek Cypriots and 18% Turkish Cypriots.
So the occupied part of Cyprus under the name “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is an illegal state and is recognized only by Turkey which is violating all rules of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations. Therefore, it is not fair for us to hear that you support it either economically or any other way, as there is only one recognized democratic state in Cyprus and this is the Republic of Cyprus.
What could you say to us about the supporters’ culture of Cyprus in general? Which stands/mobs are the strongest and what is unique about each of them?
The strongest stand is our South stand and we are proud that our group has managed to create some of the best atmospheres in Cyprus ultras scene, with numerous choreos and original ideas throughout the years. We are also proud of our great number of original chants and the powerful pyro shows.
But what is really unique about our group and organisation is that our purpose and our actions are not only related to a football team and the efforts to win a championship or cup etc. What is unique about us is that our purpose and actions are largely based on the education of our members of our history and the history which was also the main founding purpose of Anorthosis back in 1911. So, apart from organising the tribune during Anorthosis games, our group’s action spreads outside the stadiums, on the streets with numerous protests against the illegal occupation of our territories by Turkey, honoring our club’s national martyrs and also in closed halls organising educational seminars and screenings for our members on the history of Anorthosis, Famagusta and Cyprus.
Concerning the other ultras groups in Cyprus, the top 5 includes the two groups from the teams of the capital city nicosia (apoel and omonoia) and the other two from limassol (ael and apolln). These five groups form the union of ultras scene in the island and representatives from each group meet when is needed for high topics, like the situation now with the Fan ID for example.
How much does the local authorities tolerate your existence? How free are you in the stands and in the streets?
For the past 3 years, we were not able to attend any of our team’s games, in any sports venue, because of a law that passed which forces all fans to present their own unique Fan ID to enter stadiums. In our view, this is unconstitutional and has a lot of points that are too harsh and unfair towards all the citizens of this country. Therefore, all ultras groups of Cyprus, are boycotting all sports events from the first moment this law was applied. In general, as ultras and as organized groups we always receive great oppression from the state.
The culmination was when we interrupted a European game because it was set up (0-2 won away and we were losing 0-3 until we took action). For the first time in history and after a few weeks, 7 members from our group went to jail without any mitigation.
However, we have managed again to grow even stronger as a group through these difficult times and our fanbase became bigger and more passionate than ever and we try to show it with every chance we get! The cup final last season was a small example of what our organization can achieve.
What do you think about today’s modern world? This also affects ultras without a doubt.
The world is always moving forward and always the old seems more romantic and simple. But every generation had their own difficulties, the same is for our generation. We have to face our own difficulties in our modern world. The times are changing fast and technology is playing a major part in our lives now and unfortunately this is affecting some of the ultras mentality and basic principles. We must be clever and wiser and adapt to the changes without sacrificing our principles and beliefs.
A key point for our group of this transition to the modern world and modern football was the transition of our football team to a limited liability company, where as a whole we resisted and delayed the process as much as possible. Unfortunately, however, modern football, as well as the bad management of the team and the economics of the club in recent years, made this transition inevitable. Even though this transition went through we also managed to achieve some better terms for our club, including a certain percentage of the company’s shares to belong to Anorthosis in order to have some control of the football company that manages the football team.
Nevertheless, even today, we closely monitor every step of the company and continue to declare ourselves as opponents of this ownership status of our team. We do not want the reins of the team to ever fall into the hands of a foreign big businessman, who will turn our club into a commercial football team and for the sake of money to change for example the name of the club, the name of the stadium, etc. Our club is not like any other club as it represents a lot more things than football and money. The trophies and distinctions in sports for us come second to the greatness of this club outside the stadiums. A great example is the proposal of the administration of the company last year, for modernization of the emblem of the team, which found us opposite and after great pressure from our side we managed to prevent this decision.
How much are the youngsters interested in becoming an ultra? How can a young supporter join your group, which are the most basic requirements and expectations?
Despite the huge oppression of the last few years and the fact that we are not attending football matches as we currently boycott all sports events, we have a strong youngsters group. The requirements are simple: Passion for the game, ultras mentality, and the most important, unconditional love for the club, its history and what represents! Apart for supporting and helping for the organization of our group, we expect from the youngsters to transmit this ideology to the young generations so the spirit of Anorthosis will survive through the ages. Anorthosis is a big part of the modern history of Cyprus, and it is above just a sports club, so our job is to keep it alive no matter what. It is the only pearl we kept from our beloved hometown Famagusta, so this means a lot.
This year you participated in the group stage of the Conference League. Did you manage to be present at away matches, and if yes, how were these tours? How did you prepare for home matches, did any away fans arrive with organized support?
After all these years without football, that was a unique chance for us to live the moment, although we were unlucky with so many restrictions and with fewer tickets due to the pandemic. Firstly, we traveled to Wien for a qualification game before the group stages. After an agreement we had with Ultras Rapid (away fans were not allowed at this stage), 150 of us traveled at the very last moment. Being on an island makes it more difficult and expensive for us to travel to any destination especially with last minute flights. Then, we played in Israel where we couldn’t go because we needed a two weeks quarantine before and after traveling to the country. After our qualification, for the first game in Belgium we bought all the available tickets. We started our march from the center of Gent and we had 1.5 hour walking and singing until the stadium. In our first choreography we showed banners ‘Freedom to Cyprus’ and ‘Fight for Famagusta’ while during the second half, we showed a big banner with the Greek Cypriot Union flag, which symbolizes the union of Cyprus with Greece, one of our clubs historic aims since its founding in 1911. For the next game we had to travel to Estonia but due to the restrictions and the limitations such that only vaccinated and recovered people could enter the country, we were not willing to organize an official tour as the majority of our group does not accept the vaccination laws. Last and best, was the game in Serbia against Partizan with the unforgettable hospitality and the strong support of our brothers from OFK Beograd and Dynamo Moscow. This game was characterized by UEFA as Europe’s number one high-risk game for riots between all other games of this day. For this game, we organized our own planes and buses, and we gathered at OFK stadium for the pregame party. At the game, we had a big pyro show, while during the game we sang together with Partizan fans the chants ‘Kosovo is Serbia‘ and ‘Cyprus is Greek‘, as we had agreed with Grobari before the game. We cannot describe in words our emotions from this game. Our performance was the first topic everywhere.
Finally, what comes to your mind first if you hear about Hungary? Do you perhaps follow the Hungarian movement?
When we hear about Hungary the first thing that comes in mind, is the very strong ultras support of the national team. We know that all the ultras groups of the country unite when Hungary plays and that is really something. It is unique and shows a great mentality to unite with your rival for one common purpose!
Thank you very much,