Omonoia: Feisty team blends sports and left politics

Sometimes things transcend what seem to be their natural boundaries and have a greater significance. The phenomenon of the Cypriot soccer team Omonoia is once such thing. Its full significance may not fully appreciated by those close to it, but it is something that progressive minded people far beyond Cyprus, in fact all over the world, may be surprised and interested to learn about.

On the island country of Cyprus, sports teams have come to be associated with certain segments of the population. In soccer, (called football everywhere in the world except in the US), the main team associated with the working people is Omonoia Nicosia.

Omonoia was founded on Cyprus in the year 1948 during the Greek civil war-a war between those, led by the Greek left, who had resisted the Nazis during WWII and those who had collaborated. At that time, the authorities of Cypriot football tried to get all the professional athletes to sign a pledge denouncing the Greek left. Leftist players were directed to denounce their political beliefs and, specifically, the Greek communist party.

Many players refused to sign. Those who refused to sign included players who, while not being explicit leftists, objected to such blatant politicization of sport, something that was supposed to be forbidden. Some of the players who refused to sign the 1948 pledge founded their own team, Omonoia. Omonoia quickly became the most successful and, by far, the most popular team on Cyprus. Since its founding, the Omonoia fan base has been the working people of Cyprus and their political allies.

Today the most fanatical Omonoia fans sit in the area behind the Omonoia goal. For historical reasons, this area and the fans who sit here are referred to as Gate . In this area the fans often hold up pictures of the Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara and communist logos like hammer and sickle flags and posters. The Gate 9 fans often organize impressive displays at the start of games using torches. Sometimes they create intricate patterns by holding up different colored placards. In this way, at the start of an early 2011 game against their hated rivals, the right wing team APOEL, the Gate 9 fans created a giant hammer and sickle symbol which stretched across their stands.

You can see a video of this and other Gate 9 displays from the 2010-2011 season here