By Constantinos Psillides
Hundreds of APOEL fans marched to the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) on Tuesday, protesting the decision to repeat a title decider between their team and AEL, which had been abandoned after a fire cracker injured a player.
APOEL fans and officials believe the game should have been awarded to them, thus crowning them champions.
“The (CFA’s) judicial committee legalised violence,” read a banner held by the protesters who marched peacefully to the CFA’s offices in Makedonitissa.
Club chairman Prodromos Petrides assured fans that the administration would do its best, on and off the pitch, to vindicate the club.
The fans dispersed after 20 minutes.
The May 17 game was abandoned after 51 minutes when a fire cracker, thought to have been thrown by AEL fans, injured APOEL’s Brazilian defender Kaka.
The CFA’s judicial committee decided that the game should be replayed behind closed doors at a neutral ground.
APOEL spokesman Nektarios Petevinos told the Cyprus Mail that the team’s goal, which had officially sanctioned Tuesday’s march, was to protest the “legalisation of violence”.
“Our message is simple: the CFA have equated the innocent party with the guilty one. The referee of the match was clear in his remarks; APOEL was not to blame for the interruption of the match,” Petevinos said. “AEL fans were the ones who caused it. So, by CFA law, APOEL should be declared the winner. Instead of making the right decision, they opted to reward the guilty party.”
APOEL’s spokesman pointed out that the CFA tried to “sugar-coat the pill” by deciding that the match should recommence from the beginning and not be played for the remaining 39 minutes.
APOEL filed an appeal and the final verdict is expected to be issued on Thursday.
Besides a repeat of the game, the CFA also decided that AEL is to play without fans for two games and pay a €58,100 fine. APOEL was fined €19,200.
CFA official Marios Vryonides said on Monday that the association was “very lenient in handing down punishment” and announced that he will be filing an appeal, asking for a stricter punishment.