Cyprus’s football championship was thrown into turmoil just one soccer weekend before the end of the regular season after an overnight decision by the Cyprus Football Federation judge who changed the result of a game between two first division teams.
The judge upheld a ruling by Apollon FC of Limassol against the eligibility of the newly signed goalkeeper of Anorthosis FC of Famagusta in a game between the two sides on February 2.
As a result, Anorthosis, which had won an away game 1-0, was deprived of three points, which were awarded to the home team, and additionally lost another six points for breaking the rule against using a non-eligible player.
After the decision, the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) moved Apollon onto the top of the standings, displacing by one point the leading team, Apoel of Nicosia, and dropped Anorthosis from fifth place with 34 points in the top elite group of six teams to seventh place with 25 points in the relegation group.
Anorhtosis risks losing a place in the top-six teams privileged group which can lead to either one of two money-earning European football championships, as its place was taken by another team which moved up from the bottom group.
It now has to win the last game of the regular season at the weekend to return to the top group. Otherwise, it will play two rounds of five games each with teams fighting against relegation to the second soccer division.
The case has thrown Cypriot football into disrepute as it revealed dubious practices by some teams.
Apollon had contested the participation of newly acquired Nigerian goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, who is Nigeria national team’s keeper, in its game with Anorthosis, on the grounds that he did not have a valid health card.
The athletic judge upheld Apollon’s position that it would not be possible for a health certificate to be issued for Uzoho to enable him to play the next day, as he arrived in Cyprus at about 4 pm on February 1, more than an hour after the offices of the Cyprus Athletics Organization (CAO) had closed for the weekend at 2.30 pm.
CAO is the highest sports authority which issues health certificates for all athletes.
Uzoho told the police that when his health certificate was being issued he was travelling on a plane. Nevertheless, the judge fined him 1,000 euros and suspended him from one football game of his team.
Prior to the judge’s decision, CAO rescinded Uzoho’s health card as non-existent and void ab initio, as it was based on falsified health examination papers.
A criminal investigation is under way against Anorhtosis’s vice-chairman Kyriakos Yiankou, who as a doctor had provided the health certificates to CAO, a woman employee of CAO and her husband, for being involved in a conspiracy to commit a crime and in providing or handling falsified documents.
Anorthosis announced that it would appeal the decision on legal grounds, claiming that the athletic judge had taken into consideration evidence that emerged after the filing of the complaint by Apollon, namely the CAO decision to annul Uzoho’s health certificate.
Legal sources said that whatever the outcome of the appeal may be, the case may go even higher to the appeal court of the European Football Federation (UEFA), the highest football authority in Europe. Enditem