Euronews – A basketball initiative that draws young players from the Cyprus’ Greek and Turkish sides provides a welcome glimmer of hope. The PeacePlayers, one of a number of offshoots of an international group that uses sport to build trust in divided communities, has ballooned since it was set up in 2006. It now has more than 250 players and 12 teams that play all over the island, including in Nicosia, on a court at the Ledra Palace hotel in the United Nations-controlled no-man’s-land separating the Greek and Turkish sides of the divided capital. “PeacePlayers is the bridge where we are building our relationships,” Serife Ertay, one of the group’s Turkish-Cypriot players, said on Tuesday.
PeacePlayers is about to add more coaches and will be able to take in more players following a donation from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which is holding its annual meeting this year in Nicosia.
The Ledra Palace hotel backdrop to Tuesday’s basketball practice has rich historic associations in Cyprus. These days it is used by British troops, but in its heyday was frequented by Hollywood stars.
It was the venue of talks between the then-British colonial administration and Greek Cypriots seeking independence in 1955, it became a sanctuary for stranded tourists during a Turkish invasion in 1974 that followed a brief Greek-inspired coup, and has also been used as a prisoner-of-war exchange point. For the teenagers taking part in Tuesday’s practice, however, the basketball games are not about politics or even, primarily, about the sport but about making new friends.