Germasogeia Stadium | A Casual Start to the New Season

Sizeable crowd watching Anorthosis Mouttagiaka take on Doxa Paleomatochos at Germasogeia Stadium in Limassol, Cyprus.

Anorthosis Mouttagiaka 1-1 Doxa Paleomatochos

📍 Germasogeia Stadium | Limassol, Cyprus
🏆 STOK Elite
⚽ Cyprus (Tier 4)
📅 Sun 25 Sep 22 | 2.30pm
🎟️ €5 | Att: c.110

With the last international break before Qatar in full swing, this weekend is the ideal opportunity for the STOK Elite – Cyprus’ fourth tier – to finally get underway. And with the prospect of a new team at this level, a new ground, and – crucially – just a 5-minute drive to the busy Germasogeia area of Limassol, there isn’t much else I’d rather be doing this Sunday afternoon.

With that in mind, I take leave of Mrs Bore Draw (who, in a late-stage pregnancy-driven turn of events, is now aggressively obsessed with nature documentaries). Having watched Cyprus’ impressive 1-0 victory over Greece in a sports bar last night, I’m inclined not to continue any further overindulgence in Keo and nachos; upon arrival at the ground, I instead opt for the more frugal option of a nearby Costa.

A Fake Sound of Progress?

Given the wealth of nearby culinary alternatives, this is perhaps a waste. After all, Germasogeia is undoubtedly Limassol’s “it” district (in a city that has very much become “it” itself). Rents here have far surpassed what could be termed rational, especially by Cypriot standards; in fact, Londoners would have to think twice. The supply burden has only been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, too, with the area’s already sizeable Russian diaspora growing every day. Quotes of €2,000 per month for a standard two-bed apartment are not uncommon, while luxury developments/gratuitous eyesores such as Limassol del Mar and The Icon push five-figure rents.

As a result of all this upheaval, Germasogeia has become the black sheep of the cityscape, at least in the eyes of the locals. In lieu of the Old Town’s 18th century colonial town houses, high-rises dominate, each more garish and outlandish in concept than the last. This is a neighbourhood now of cranes and progress, unstoppable and inevitable.

That said, there is some opposition to this rapid upheaval. In particular, concern abides over how the city’s dated infrastructure – with its limited sewage system and complete lack of serious public transport – can cope with such a potent population increase. And local renters complain bitterly about how they are being priced out of living in their own city.

But as is often the case in Cyprus, apathy is winning out. Aside from passing platitudes about shifts in aesthetic, journalists seem unwilling to bang any drums. Property developers and city officials are not about to disembark their lucrative gravy train any time soon, even as the perverse national shame of the investment-for-citizenship scheme lingers. The focus now is only onwards and upwards, with little consideration given to the price of such narrow vision.

Introducing Anorthosis Mouttagiaka

In some ways, Anorthosis Mouttagiaka are symbolic of this lurch forward into the unknown; in the 33 years since their inception, the club has never extended any ambition beyond regional football.

However, this changed last season when the merger of Achyrona Liopetriou and Onisilos Sotira higher up the pyramid created an additional sport in the fourth-tier STOK. Having finished 5th in the Limassol-based PAAOK league, Anorthosis had first refusal on the promotion and opted to make the step up.

Germasogeia Stadium in Limassol, Cyprus

This decision does not come without risk. As in many countries, the jump from amateur football to a semi-professional (or, in some cases, fully professional) level can be vast. Without the financial or organisational support of a clearly defined structure and/or ambitious ownership, most struggle, resulting in an immediate return to village football and any unknown number of financial scars.

The step up has also meant that Anorthosis has had to temporarily relocate from the nearby Mouttagiaka district and play their home games in Germasogeia. This actually surprises me, as there is little to no difference between the two grounds, but it’s another symbol of change for the division’s new boys. Only time will tell if the club has the quality – and more importantly – the inclination to be competitive at this level, with today’s opponents a good opening marker.

High Energy, Low Quality

Founded in 1960, Doxa Paleomatochos has itself flitted between regional and fourth tier football, albeit for a considerably longer period. Since 2016, though, the Nicosia-based club has been an ever-present in the STOK, ending last season’s campaign in a respectable 8th position.

But any supposed disparity is not immediately evident, with both sides trading blows in a cagey first half. It’s so cagey, in fact, that the first shot on goal – a speculative, looping free-kick that nearly kills a bird – doesn’t arrive until the 44th minute.

The crowd – around a hundred or so strong and huddled mercifully under the blanket shade of an adjacent apartment block – are as passive as the action on the field. A man in a Manchester United shirt arrives late, prompting an outcry of mockery from his friends. Through my broken Greek, I ascertain that the man is a “Judas” Omonoia fan, given that his side are facing the English giants in the Europa League in a fortnight. Next to them, an old man and his much younger, extremely blonde wife chain smoke cigarettes.

Luckily, the second half follows a more structured pattern. Anorthosis, despite their lack of comparable experience, grab the bull by the horns and start to dominate play, while Doxa seem happy to soak up the pressure and counter quickly. Despite the home side contriving to miss three golden chances, they do eventually take the lead when a thunderous, first-time, 30-yard volley flies into the bottom corner (by way, unfortunately, of a massive deflection). It’s no more than Anorthosis deserve, and it seems like it’s going to be a winning start to life in the fourth tier.

It’s inevitable, then, that Doxa equalise in the 90th minute. A cheap foul in the corner results in a driven cross into the box, with a yellow and blue head rising highest to nod home. Half the 110 or so supporters rise in delight, suggesting about a 50/50 split of supporters; as the final whistle goes, you sense that it’s the half from Nicosia who will be going home the happier.