By Iacovos Constantinou
It came as no surprise when I heard the AEL and APOEL officials blaming the police for the clashes between the two sets of fans an hour or so before Tuesday’s game. It is a common trait in Cyprus to try to shift the blame away from the real perpetrators and the easy and obvious target is the police in these cases.
I am in no way suggesting that we have the best trained/equipped police force in the universe, perhaps it is one of the worst but to hear club officials blaming just the police as if the clashes were instigated by them is downright absurd.
Ploutis Avraam, the AEL official, accused the police of not enforcing the measures agreed between the involved parties, resulting in the two sets of fans confronting each other with the APOEL fans attacking the AEL fans. There was no mention of why ‘fans’ (without any provocation whatsoever) blocked the Orphanides roundabout, threw flares and firecrackers and yelled abuse at innocent drivers trying to get to their destinations
The APOEL spokesman was equally critical of the police force saying that the 300 or so policemen deployed for the game were not enough. Perhaps there should have been a lot more present but yet again no mention of ‘fans’ marching from one end of the stadium to the other to clash with the rival ‘fans’.
It would be wrong to say that club officials never blame the fans at all but in almost all cases there is a ‘but’ at the end. The statements usually go something like this: “We as [insert club’s name] condemn most strongly our fans’ behaviour BUT we should not ignore the fact that they were provoked by “refereeing decisions/police/opposing coach/bad weather etc etc”.
Club officials themselves are not blameless in all this. A few years back I recall a club president appearing at a pre-game press conference wearing army attire as if suggesting to his fans ‘get ready for war’. Last month another club official congratulated his team’s supporters for their ‘immaculate’ behavior during a game. In that game one of the assistant referees was hit twice by projectiles that came from the side of the immaculately behaving fans.
I believe that it’s time that club officials get to the root of the problem instead of laying the blame on somebody or something else. Hooliganism in Cyprus is rife and blossoming and all concerned should tackle this problem before it’s too late.