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Cyprus angered by UEFA treatment

© Reuters 2002

NICOSIA, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The boss of Cyprus's FA said on Tuesday he felt "bulldozed" by UEFA after the football governing body unilaterally postponed a European qualifier against Israel despite finding a neutral venue for the game.

The Cyprus football association (CFA) lodged a formal objection with UEFA after a Euro 2004 qualifier initially scheduled for October 16 was postponed to April 30 next year, clashing with a friendly Cyprus had already scheduled with Greece.

The move infuriated the Cypriots who had also cleared last weekend's first division schedules in preparation for the midweek game.

"I felt I was being bulldozed because we are a small association. It wouldn't have happened if Israel were playing France or Germany," CFA chairman Costakis Koutsokoumnis told Reuters.

In Israel, Football Association chairman Gavri Levi described the dispute a "storm in a teacup".

"...But it has nothing to do with us. We had already secured the venue in Bucharest when UEFA suddenly decided to postpone the match without our knowledge," he said.

"This is a matter for the Cypriots and UEFA; we are not involved in this," Levi said in a TV interview on Monday night.

VOLATILE SECURITY SITUATION The October 16 match was initially moved to Romania because of the volatile security situation in Israel which prompted UEFA to order all Israeli clubs in European competition and the national team to play home matches on neutral turf.

Cyprus's complaint to the UEFA appeals body seeks an order summoning teams in Group One - France, Malta, Israel and Slovenia - to reschedule all remaining games.

The Cypriots are also petitioning that the appeals board refer their case to the UEFA control and disciplinary body for Israel to be either disqualified from the competition or have the three points of the game forfeited in favour of Cyprus.

Koutsokoumnis said the CFA was expecting a response from UEFA, and possibly the setting of a hearing so it could present its case.

A CFA objection filed last Friday said UEFA postponed the game without consulting Cyprus, upsetting the schedule of league matches and clashing with friendly international dates.

"Democracy is not high up on the agenda of UEFA, and I'm referring to the decision itself and the way it was taken," Koutsokoumnis said. The CFA wants to be compensated for some $200,000 in lost ticket sales from the friendly against Greece, and an additional $88,200 it says it stands to lose from backing out of a commercial deal.

(Additional reporting by Ori Lewis in Israel).

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