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By ESPN Staff

Cyprus celebrates 'Big Lady' in Champions League

NICOSIA, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Cyprus burst into celebration on Thursday after soccer champions Anorthosis Famagusta became the first Cypriot team to reach the Champions League group stage.

The Cypriots lost 1-0 to Greece's Olympiakos on Wednesday night, but finished 3-1 on aggregate after their stunning 3-0 first leg win in Larnaca two weeks ago.

Thousands of jubilant fans lined the streets outside Cyprus's Larnaca airport on Thursday to welcome the team flying back from Athens.

'A small team from a small country is in the Champions League... as far as I'm concerned, these guys have already won,' said Anorthosis coach Temuri Ketsbaia, praising his players.

Known locally as the 'Big Lady' of Cypriot football, Anorthosis has clinched the Cyprus league title 13 times and the Cyprus FA Cup 10 times since its establishment in 1911.

It has effectively been playing in exile since 1974, since its home base of Famagusta was seized by Turkish forces in an invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. The island has been divided since.

It pioneered a recruitment drive for more professional players in the 1990s, and is the only Greek Cypriot soccer club to now own its own stadium, in Larnaca.


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