TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) – Since the Iron Bowl is an in-state rivalry, most fans don’t have to travel too far to get to the game. For one group of friends, however; getting to Tuscaloosa would mean traveling for 38 straight hours.
They call themselves the Cyprus Alumni Association.
“There was a time in the late 90’s when about 20 people from Cyprus were going to school in Alabama,” said Stavros Michaelides, a 1995 graduate of the University of Alabama.
This group of friends became die-hard Alabama fans during their time at the Capstone. So much so that they’ve continued the tradition of gathering for games and tailgating in Cyprus.
“Most of the games start after midnight for us,” Michaelides said. “So we’ve got about an eight hour time difference, but it doesn’t matter what time the game is on. We’ll probably start tailgating about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, and then we’ll be done by 7 in the morning.”
Many of the group members are former swimmers at the Capstone. Michaelides was there on a swimming scholarship.
“I was an athlete here, so it means a lot to me,” Michaelides said. “It made me who I was as a person and as an athlete. We love this university. It pretty much played a huge role in who we are today. Business-wise, culture-wise–so it’s always great to come back here and feel that vibe again.”
Michaelides told CBS42 News that while he has been back–he hasn’t been to a football game since the 90’s.
“During tailgating, story-telling and hydration,” Michalides said as he pantomimed raising a glass, “we said, you know, instead of doing this every Saturday why don’t we start saving money and maybe we can go watch a game on campus.”
The Iron Bowl became their goal. Michaelides describes their planning in Saban-esque fashion.
“The process started right away,” Michaelides said.
When we spoke to Michaelides and his group, six fans had traveled the 6,381 miles from Cyprus to Tuscaloosa. Two more were joining them later in the week. In order to get to campus, they had to fly from Cyprus to Athens, Athens to Paris, and Paris to Atlanta. They drove from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa.
“Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,” Michaelides said with a shrug.
Since arriving in town, the Cyprus Alumni Association has been warmly welcomed. Although they did not notify anyone other than a couple of close friends about their trip — they scored an invitation to the President’s Mansion on game day. They also went to Dreamland BBQ where their meal was covered. On Wednesday evening, they went to ‘Hey Coach’ and posed for a picture with Nick Saban.
Michaelides said that they actually have stayed in touch with some Auburn fans that that they befriended in the past. They even know of a couple in Cyprus.
“We kid about it for months in advance, and then months afterwards,” he said. “So it should be fun.”