'Excluding young people from playing football because they are Turkish-Cypriot is racism, whichever way you look at it,' says Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece – a former Hackney councillor and now Lib Dem member of the House of Lords. Baroness Hussein-Ece's comments came after the cancellation of a planned friendly match between a team from London's Turkish-Cypriot community and the North Cyprus national team.
The intended host, Barnet Football Club cancelled the match last week, citing a ban on “political activity” and claiming that because of the continued division of Cyprus, hosting the match was too “risky.”
“It is clear that the reason this match has been cancelled is because the players would be from North Cyprus,” said Baroness Hussein-Ece, “and because of the ongoing “embargo” against Turkish-Cypriots in football. This embargo is completely against the spirit of fair play that sport is supposed to encourage and excludes many talented players and passionate fans.
“In a country where we pride ourselves on equal opportunities and human rights, this sort of discrimination should be unthinkable.”
Liberal Democrat campaigners in Hackney - home to a large Turkish and Cypriot community – have condemned the cancellation and called for the game to go ahead and backed the anti-discrimination campaign by pressure group, Embargoed!.
Chair of Hackney Lib Dems, Simon de Deney said, “The idea that in 2013 there are still 300,000 people in North Cyprus and thousands in North London who can be excluded and discriminated against because of who they are is appalling.
“We urge Barnet Football Club to reconsider their decision. They can help bring communities together or they can help keep them apart.”