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Cyprus

APOEL looking at stiff punishment following trouble (2nd update – fans freed)

File photo APOEL fans

By George Psyllides

NICOSIA football club APOEL were looking at a hefty punishment after their fans hurled flares into the pitch during a European fixture in Greece on Thursday night, prompting the referee to suspend play for 15 minutes.

APOEL lost the game against Asteras Tripolis 2-0, but that appeared on Friday to be the least of their problems as they were looking at a stiff punishment from European football governing body UEFA.

The side has already been sanctioned several times in the past over its fans’ actions, something expected to work against APOEL when UEFA rules on Thursday’s incident. Around 1,500 supporters of the Cypriot team attended the game in Tripolis.

UEFA vice chairman Marios Lefkaritis said the punishment the team was facing was very big from the moment they have a record.

Lefkaritis did not expect a suspension from European competitions but suggested that it could end up being better compared with the penalty APOEL was currently facing.

A decision is expected within two to three weeks.

The fallout has already been felt in Nicosia as two board members announced their resignation.

On his Facebook page, Charalambos Prountzos said he was resigning for ethical reasons and suggested that APOEL’s stands had been infiltrated by far right and neo-Nazi groups and individuals carrying out a catastrophic undertaking in a bid to take ownership of “this huge idea” for other reasons, and infect innocent and desperate children.

Financial officer Yiannis Demetriou also resigned, describing what happened during the game in Greece as sacrilege.

In its first reaction, APOEL cancelled all the tickets already sold for the Nicosia derby with arch rivals Omonia. It also cancelled a fan day that was scheduled for Saturday.

“The behaviour of certain brainless individuals irreparably hurt APOEL’s name,” the club said.

APOEL apologised to Asteras and its supporters “for the very bad behaviour of some fans who committed a crime in a hospitable stadium.”

No one was arrested in connection with the trouble that took place during the game.

Greek police detained six APOEL fans before the game in connection with possession of flares and drugs.

Police, who carried out random checks, found four in possession of flares and two who had hashish on them. Two Greeks were also arrested for possession of flares. They had gone to watch the match with their Cypriot APOEL fans.

The fans, who appeared before a magistrate in Tripoli on Friday, were given suspended jail sentences. The six who were found with flares were slapped with a five-month sentence and a three-year suspension each, and the two carrying hashish, were given three-month sentences also with a three-year suspension each.

No one was arrested in connection with the trouble that took place during the game.

APOEL supporters started hurling flares on the pitch in the second half and while their team was 2-0 down. They continued to do so even after they were warned that the referee would suspend play.

The Austrian official interrupted the game on the 69th minute. His initial intention was to abandon the match for safety reasons and blame APOEL fans.

He eventually changed his mind and the game restarted 15 minutes later.

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