NICOSIA, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on Tuesday refused to attend a bi-communal so-called "friendly football match", citing disagreement with its venue, his office said in a statement.
The match was organized jointly by the Stelios Philanthropic Foundation, set up by the founder of Easy Jet airline Stelios Hadji-Ioannou, and the Monaco-based "Sport for Peace" organization.
Ex-Chelsea superstar Didier Drogba threw his weight behind the event, attending the match and playing with young footballers from both communities.
The match was played by two teams coming from the same city, Famagusta: the Greek Cypriot team "Nea Salamina" and the Turkish Cypriot Magusa (Famagusta) Turk Gucu FC club.
The match was the first between teams of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities in 14 years, and was organized to promote contacts and goodwill between the two communities, estranged since the 1974 military intervention of part of Cyprus by Turkey in reaction to a coup staged by the military rulers of Greece.
Akinci's spokesman said just one day before the match that the Turkish Cypriot leader would not attend because it would be held in a field in the buffer zone separating the two parts of Cyprus close to Pyla village, the only settlement with a mixed population.
He said that he was concerned about security in the buffer zone, which is being policed by a United Nations peacekeeping force.
Turkish Cypriots who helped organize the match expressed regret over the absence of the Turkish Cypriot leader.
The match was attended by the United Nations special representative in Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar, several ambassadors accredited in Cyprus, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, leaders of political parties from both communities and several thousand people from both sides.
Anastasiades refused to comment on Akinci's absence from the event.
"I prefer to watch a sports game aiming at improving the climate, and be reminded of the good old days when our teams had no problem playing each other," Anastasiades said upon his arrival.
Greek and Turkish Cypriots had lived together in over 400 villages and towns before the 1974 Turkish military action and Turkish Cypriot football clubs were taking part in an all-Cyprus championship.
Anastasiades said that despite Akinci's absence from the event he believed that he and the Turkish Cypriot leader had a joint vision of a reunified Cyprus through peace negotiations.