Cyprus football history has been rewritten after Aris Limassol, the top flight’s perennial underdogs, were crowned champions for the first time in its 93-year existence.
Following Aris’ 1-0 win over Omonia Nicosia on Saturday and the defeat of their main rivals in the championship race, APOEL Nicosia’s 3-2 defeat to Apollon Limassol 3-2, the Limassol Greens were declared title winner for 2022-2023.
Aris broadened the gap from APOEL to 6 points, with just one game at the end of the season playoff phase of the Cyprus football championship.
The Limassol team now has 74 points, and APOEL 68.
Aris will now represent Cyprus in the European Champions League for the 2023-2024 season.
Aris won the league title after it started its playoff campaign third, six points behind the top spot, then occupied by runners-up APOEL.
The Nicosia team were two points ahead of then second AEK Larnaca.
Aris, traditionally one of the league’s weakest teams with a smaller fanbase, saw its fortunes turn around in the summer of 2021 when Russian investor Vladimir Fedorov took over the club.
The team would alternate between the First and Second Division, spending three seasons in the second tier, with Fedorov stepping in at the end of 2020-2021 when the team regained a spot in the top flight.
The Russian investor declared that he planned to transform Aris into one of the elite clubs of Cyprus.
The transformation began almost immediately, with Aris finishing fourth in the 2021-2022 season, which meant the club had qualified for the 2022–23 UEFA Europa Conference League, its first taste of European football.
They made their European debut in the second qualifying round against Neftçi Baku, and despite a 2–0 win at home, Aris lost 3–0 in the second tie and was eliminated.
Aris’ success signals that Cyprus football is changing as smaller clubs see flagging fortunes improve, as investors pump fresh cash and traditional giants drown in debt.
In 2022, the Limassol outfit reported the third-largest profit of €1,012,714 from revenue of €11,592,294.
A total of €7,092,452 went into the team, while another €3,427,679 went to administration costs.
Four of the club’s players made the Team of the Season at the Cyprus Football Players Federation (PASP) awards, including goalkeeper Vana Alves and top goalscorer Aleksandr Kokorin, who was also voted as the most valuable player of the season.
Aris head coach Aleksey Shpilevsky was voted best manager of the season.