The state will contribute €2 million to AEK Larnaca football club, towards covering part of the expansion cost of its new ‘AEK Arena’ football grounds, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Sunday.
Speaking at the pitch’s official inauguration ceremony, Anastasiades said the new grounds “will be home to so much excitement on the stands, sweat on the pitch, and inspiration for young people and children to engage with sports”.
“We stand before a miracle,” the president said.
“It is a small miracle, the kind that people of hard work, like those luck brought to the helm of AEK Larnaca, know how to do.”
Anyone who spoke of AEK having its own grounds a few years ago would be thought a daydreamer, Anastasiades said.
“But in a difficult environment, when everyone else slashed costs, AEK’s management not only survived, not only excelled on the pitch, but today delivers this functional and beautiful stadium to the people of Larnaca and sports fans,” he said.
“This is the first public-good project that was started and concluded as planned, in the midst of the financial crisis, with private initiative and private funds.”
The state, Anastasiades added, will support such efforts as much as it can, any way it can.
“We will contribute to the further upgrade of the stadium, because we consider it an obligation to the town of Larnaca,” the president pledged.
“The cabinet recently decided to support this effort with a €2 million grant, and the pledge that we will be here again, depending on the performance of the economy.”
The first phase of the AEK Arena cost a total €7.2 million. The football pitch was built on land leased by Larnaca’s Zenon athletic club.
AEK’s president Yiorgos Karapatakis honoured Anastasiades for his contribution to the club and Cyprus sports in general, offering him an icon of Saint Lazarus, Larnaca’s patron saint, as well as an official AEK jersey with the president’s name and the number 94 – the year AEK was founded – printed on the back.
“I would like to thank you for both the Saint Lazarus icon and the honoured jersey of AEK,” Anastasiades said.
“I was given a similar jersey by Barcelona’s board, when their team was in Cyprus to play Apoel. I now have two exceptional jerseys by two exceptional teams.”