Four football fans accused by police of inciting violence have been banned from attending a championship decider between AEL and APOEL in Limassol on Saturday, as the force geared up for the game with the highest risk of trouble this season.
Late on Thursday, police raided the two teams’ fan clubs in a bid to foil any plans to cause trouble but eventually went away empty handed.
Four people were contacted by the police on Friday and were asked not to set foot in the stadium, or face a fine and possibly prosecution.
Police contacted the fans via mail, claiming that they had “credible information that they were inciting hatred and violence.”
While the police letter makes no mention on why these fans were singled out, one of them told news outlet themaonline that he had posted a picture on Facebook showing AEL fans holding flares.
The police actions are part of police measures ahead of the final game of the season that would also decide the champion.
Clashes between the two teams’ fans in Nicosia in April saw several people injured, one seriously.
Fans attending Saturday’s derby will have to present identification or else face being turned away, police said on Friday.
The ID number must also be written on the back of their tickets so they can be matched.
Police stressed that fans without ID cards will not be allowed in the stadium, despite having purchased a ticket.
The gates at Tsireion stadium, AEL’s home ground, will open at 2:30 pm and the game will start at 5:00 pm.
Police urged fans to show up as early as possible to avoid unnecessary delays.
Around 7,400 tickets – 5,000 will go to AEL — have been issued for the game.
Over 700 police officers are expected to be deployed — 400 inside and the immediate area outside, while 300 will tasked with directing traffic, manning roadblocks and monitoring the fans outside.
“We are using every tool at our disposal. More staff, more checks, everything. We want to make sure that law-abiding fans enjoy the game without feeling threatened by hooligans,” a senior police officer told the Cyprus Mail.
Both teams agreed with the police on how their fans should travel to the stadium.
APOEL fans should use the western side of the stadium while AEL fans are required to approach from the eastern side.
Police will also be cutting -off the streets around the stadium.
The police warned that they will not allow entrance to anyone found carrying a flare or a firecracker. Entrance will also be denied to those carrying motorcycle helmets.
The police also raided both APOEL and AEL fan clubs late on Thursday, in an attempt to catch fans preparing to cause trouble red-handed. “We raided the fan clubs on information that some hooligans were trying to stir-up trouble. We didn’t find any evidence of wrong-doing so our officers vacated the premises without any arrests,” the senior officer said.