When Omonoia were sold to Stavros Papastavrou in 2018, it changed the course of the club’s history. What was seen as a beacon of hope for many fans, tired of years of futility mostly stemming from financial difficulties, was a sign of betrayal for others. The deep pockets of Papastavrou investing in the club, brought hope of a return to prominence for Cyprus’s most popular club. This hope that has largely been fulfilled in the form of a championship in 2021, and Cup wins in 2022 and 2023, with the prospect of a “3peat” this season. There was also a first place finish in 2020, in which the Cyprus Football Association declined to name a champion for the coronavirus-halted season, but Omonoia were afforded the rights of a Cypriot champion by UEFA. A small minority however, wanted no part of any of this.



When the Omonoia board made the decision to sell to Papastavrou, Omonoia’s main supporter’s group, Thyra 9 (Gate 9 in English) found this unacceptable, a betrayal of everything the club stands for. 70 years of fan ownership now replaced by a rich owner, a mockery of their leftist ideals in their eyes. Thus Omonoia 1948 was born, vowing to rise through the levels of Cypriot football, and do so in a clean manner, more consistent with their view. In 2020, the club was renamed the People’s Athletic Club Omonoia 29 May (henceforth Omonoia 29M). Sure enough, they’ve achieved the rise they desired, winning their regional league in their first season, then the Fourth Division the following season, and the Third Division the year after. Getting through the Second Division took a little longer, but in just two years in Second Division play, they’ve now achieved promotion to the Cypriot First Division for the 2024-2025 season.

Now the stage is set for a reckoning six years in the making. Omonoia can no longer ignore the breakaway club, and Omonoia 29M will also have to come face to face with the club they left behind. Gate 9, who put so much into supporting Omonoia from its founding in 1992 until that fateful day in 2018, now will at least once next season return to the Stadio GSP and cheer against Omonoia. It’s hard to say at this juncture what tensions there will be when the two sides first meet. For some of the breakaway supporters, the Cyprus fan card was a sticking point, now in First Division play they will need one to keep supporting their club. Omonoia will face its old supporters group, Gate 9 will face its old club.

There is some precedent for something like this. In 2003 in England, some disgruntled Manchester United supporters formed “FC United” to protest the sale of that club to Malcolm Glazer. The difference is, FC United while they had their own impressive rise, never made it to the Premier League. Cyprus is a small island, where civility often gives way to reckless passion. Omonoia 29M won’t be replacing APOEL as Omonoia’s archrivals anytime soon (or ever), but on both sides of the schism, it will be a date to circle on the calendar when next season’s schedule comes out.

By Andrew Mantzas