By Angelos Anastasiou
No police plan to combat hooliganism can be effective on its own and the competent authorities must take a holistic approach to addressing the root of the problem, police spokesman Andreas Angelides said.
Speaking at the Limassol police headquarters on Sunday, Angelides said that following the title-decider between AEL and APOEL on Saturday night three APOEL fans were arrested in Nicosia – two were said to have been part of a group that assaulted police officers with rocks and firebombs, and the third was alleged to have assaulted them verbally.
Meanwhile, in Limassol roughly 400 AEL fans clashed with policemen at roughly 8pm and injured two of them before smashing the windows of a bank, damaging six police cars and a private vehicle, and disappearing into the night.
This unrest followed a result that saw APOEL crowned champions with a narrow away win over league leaders AEL, in a game that was replayed on neutral ground in Larnaca without fans as the May 17 match was interrupted by the referee due to a firecracker being thrown at APOEL’s bench from the AEL stands, which injured one of APOEL’s substitute players.
The skirmishes in Nicosia and Limassol happened despite no fan-related incidents at Larnaca’s Antonis Papadopoulos stadium – the venue of the rescheduled game – for which Angelides claimed credit.
“The match took place as planned and was concluded without incident,” Angelides said.
“But despite the planning changes made on instructions of the police chief, which have improved results, the police can’t solve the problem on their own,” he said, adding that “the competent institutions and authorities must address the issue with a view to taking effective measures.
“This has advanced to alarming levels,” he said.
According to Angelides, the latest incidents of football violence were “unprovoked and took place for no reason at all,” noting that “the causes are deeper because the preemptive measures taken by the police through appropriate planning are closely linked to suppressing hooliganism.”
In addition to attacks on police from fans of the two title contenders, police have received a complaint from three APOEL fans who claimed to have been attacked on Saturday night while celebrating their team’s win.
“They claimed to have been attacked while in their car by approximately 30 people in black-and-green attire – some with hoods on – that they have been unable to identify,” Angelides said. “The assaulters damaged the vehicle and forced the celebrating fans out of the car, forcibly removing their team jerseys which they stole and took off.
“The victims gave a deposition and the case is under investigation,” Angelides said.