Cyprus, an island country in the Mediterranean Sea, is the home of sandy beaches, sunny weather and The Cypriot Football Championship First Division. It’s also famous for its proximity to the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa which could be the reason why so many foreign football players are joining the teams from the first division.
Currently, 14 clubs compete in the league which is run by The Cyprus Football Association. They all play each other twice, once at home and once away, which accounts for 26 matches for each club. In the 2007/2008 season the league introduced a second round. From the introduction and until the 2012/2013 season, the first 12 teams in the second round were separated into three groups of four teams according to their position at the end of the first round.
This season (2013/2014), the first 12 teams are separated into two groups of six teams according to their position at the end of the first round. The two teams that finished last in the first round are relegated directly to the B1 Division and the bottom two teams of the relegation group also. The points from the first round are carried to the second round and the teams play the other teams twice.
APOEL and Omonia ruling the divided island
Till today, 37 different teams participated in the Cypriot First Division and the current champions APOEL hold the most titles – 22. They’ve also won 19 cups and 12 super cups. APOEL is closely followed by their city rivals from Nicosia, Omonia who have 20 championship titles, 14 cups and 16 super cups. In third place is Anorthosis with 13 first division titles, 10 cups and 7 super cups.
Sokratis Sokratous a Cypriot agent registered on Fieldoo said: “Cypriot league is one of the best championships for young ambitious players to kick-start their international career. Also, some of the biggest European clubs send their players on loan to Cypriot clubs in order for them to develop and then return to their first teams.”
If you are interested in joining one of the 14 teams, you can do so during the transfer window that lasts from 1st June to 31st August and from 1st January to 31st January. So how much can a football player earn during the season that lasts from September to May? Average range of annual salaries in the 1st division is between 25,000 and 50,000 €.
Heaven for foreign players?
There’s a large amount of foreign players plying their trade in Cyprus (188), most than in any other league percentage-wise. Despite this huge influx of foreigners in the league, Cyprus’ best players still mostly play in their first division seeing how more than 75% of players in the national team come from teams in the Cypriot First Division.
Most of the foreign players get a transfer to Cyprus from Greece, Spain and Portugal. Greece is the most popular destination for Cypriot players, when international transfers are taken into account, with Greek culture and language connecting both nations.
International success is reserved for the clubs
While the national team hasn’t enjoyed any success of note except a few wins against high profile countries, Cypriot clubs have reached the Champions League Group Stage three times in the last years; which has made Cyprus the smallest country (in both terms of area and population) to have been represented in the main phase of Europe’s most prestigious club tournament.
APOEL F.C., who reached the Champions League Group Stage twice, is the first Cypriot team to reach the quarter finals of Champions League in 2012 beating the likes of Porto and Lyon to then be eliminated by Real Madrid.
Did you know that an Omonia player Sotiris Kaiafas won the European Golden Boot in 1976 for scoring 39 goals in the Cypriot First Division?
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