By Constantinos Psillides
EIGHT people were injured and ten arrested in clashes between APOEL and AEL football fans and the police before Tuesdays match at the GSP stadium in Nicosia.
One fan was seriously injured when a rock hit him in the face, while another of the injured was an anti-riot police officer.
The rest of the injured were taken to Nicosia General Hospital and released shortly after.
Fans from both teams cut off the traffic on the highway and threw rocks, flares and firecrackers at one another while grass in nearby fields caught fire.
An eyewitness told the Cyprus Mail that AEL fans cut off the round-about over the highway using cars and motorbikes and verbally abused passing drivers. “They were sitting on the car doors, waving flags, throwing flares and firecrackers and going around the roundabout five or six times.
“They regulated the traffic themselves, deciding who should pass and who should stay. With each firecracker going off the cars would tremble. When people had enough and just tried to enter the roundabout to go to the other side, they would shout at them, made rude gestures and verbally abuse them. And all I was thinking was why there were no police officers present,” said Theodora, 27.
According to the eye witnesses, traffic came to complete halt for about half an hour.
After AEL fans left the round-about they clashed with APOEL fans on their way to the stadium.
A man told CyBC that AEL fans attacked his grandson, took his car keys and left the car in the middle of the road to cut off traffic.
The football fans also damaged vehicles passing through the area.
According to the police report, around 300 police officers, including members of the anti riot squad MMAD, were present and acted to disperse the clashing fans.
According to the report, fans immediately turned their attention to the anti riot squad members and started throwing rocks and firecrackers at them. The anti-riot squad used tear gas to break up the fans.
“These things happen every time. There should be more police officers present to prevent these things from taking place. The police have failed us yet again,” said APOEL fan Antreas, 28.
According to the police press office, 300 was deemed a sufficient number of officers to effectively police the match. “It’s more than we usually assign to football matches. This was considered a high risk match and we took necessary precautions,” said a police representative.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said more arrests are expected and pointed out that what happened was caused by a small number of fans. “Thirty maybe 50 people caused all that trouble.
The vast majority of fans from both teams complied with police instructions”.
Other fans turned their rage at the hooligans. “They should lock those hooligans up. It’s because of people like them that people are afraid to go to football matches anymore. My father used to bring me to see all APOEL home matches but now I can’t do the same for my kids for fear that they would be hit by a flare or a rock,” said Aristos, 35.
Before the game concluded, police reinforcements flocked to the area to ensure that fans from both teams wouldn’t clash again after the match finished.
AEL fans were allowed to depart first so as to not meet with APOEL fans on their way out.
In statements made after the game, both teams blamed the police for not handling the situation properly.
APOEL won the game 3-0, passing AEL who is now in second place.