By Peter Stevenson
THE 20-YEAR-OLD man severely injured in Larnaca on Friday night after trouble broke out between Anorthosis and Apollon fans during a friendly match, is still in the intensive care unit of Nicosia general hospital although doctors have downgraded his status from critical to severe.
Nine Apollon fans were arrested on Sunday morning in connection with the trouble and Larnaca district court later remanded two of them for five days and the other seven for three days.
Chief investigator Marios Papachristophorou had told the court on Sunday that the 20-year-old had suffered second degree burns which were caused by a Molotov cocktail. Eight police officers suffered light injuries during the troubles.
Papachristophorou sad that rocks, bats, flares and homemade Molotov cocktails were used during the battles between the two sets of fans, and police.
Fifteen minutes into the friendly a group of Apollon fans approached the Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca carrying various weapons and attempted to provoke Anorthosis fans who were already watching the match, police spokesman Andreas Angelides said.
“A group of Anorthosis fans left the stadium and trouble started between the two groups of supporters and the police. Members of the force were forced to use teargas to break-up the fighting,” he said. He added that the trouble lasted for about an hour.
“Apollon fans’ behaviour was inexcusable and it would appear that they planned the whole thing as they travelled with Molotov cocktails, looking to cause trouble,” he said.
It is claimed that the 20-year-old man was burnt by a firecracker he was holding at the time but Angelides said that initial examinations indicate he was hurt by a Molotov cocktail. He was taken to Nicosia general where he was placed on a respirator in the intensive care unit.
The police spokesman added that a team of experts will look into the incident.
“We already have evidence which we are examining in connection with other information as our investigations are progressing rapidly,” Angelides said.
Police presence at the match was satisfactory according to Angelides, considering it was a friendly match. There were a total of 20 officers present at the match but after the trouble kicked off that number doubled to around 40 he said.
There are no friendly games in Cyprus according to 59-year-old Anorthosis supporter Christos Andreou.
“Police should have taken measures knowing what fans in Cyprus are like and they should have learnt from previous mistakes,” he said.
He explained that at the stadium in question there are special entrances for away fans but they were not used on Friday night.
“Hooligans will always exist and police need to take more severe measures to dissuade them” he added. Andreou said he believes it is not too late for the police to change their policies and come down hard on those caught causing trouble at football match. He cited several visits to stadiums in the UK as prime examples of how English police deal with troublemakers.
“I went to Stamford Bridge to watch Chelsea play APOEL in the Champions League a couple of years ago and we were told to keep to the pavement. One APOEL fan decided he was going to walk on the road at which point he was asked to get back on the pavement. He refused and within seconds a police car pulled up and officers told him he was either going to continue walking on the pavement or he was going to be put in the car and taken away. Unsurprisingly he got back on the pavement and didn’t get off,” he said.
One way he believes a solution could be found is if those found guilty of causing trouble are given community service and also banned from stadia.