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Justice minister: police did right to cancel match that led to violence

Ôóßñåéï – ÆçìéÝò
Aftermath of the violence in Limassol

Justice Minister Stephie Dracou said on Tuesday that she will call a meeting with the police following the violent clashes between fans at football match in Limassol.

The clashes between Ael and Apollon fans that broke out after the match was cancelled on Sunday resulted in a police officer being injured and shops in the area neighbouring Tsirion stadium damaged.

Commenting on the matter to the website Reporter, Dracou said that in the coming days she will call for a meeting with police chief Stelios Papatheodorou, and other organisations related to the matter, so that “everyone can take responsibility”.

But she added that the police acted correctly at the Tsirion stadium.

“It was a collective decision to stop the match. From then on, everyone must assume their responsibilities. Including those who check fans in, the supervisors, the stadium security officers and of course the police,” she said. “I believe the police did everything they could under these conditions.”

She added that the police were interested in the safety of the fans at the stadium and ensuring that they did not get hurt.

She called on the football club supporters associations to be more responsible, as they know which fans get out of hand.

“The police cannot deal with these incidents alone, if the associations do not assume their responsibility. The police acted immediately, and their priority was to get those inside the stadium out safely, which was achieved,” she said.

She questioned fan clubs saying: “How can the police be able to deal with the fans, when the clubs themselves fail to control them? If those who have the responsibility of the organised fans, do not act in this direction, then we have to take stricter measures.”

Meanwhile, the police branch of ‘Isotita’ union and the football players association argued over who was to blame for the incidents.

The head of the football player association (Pasp) Spyros Neophytides said that police lacked training in handling these issues.

“Anyone can bring whatever they want into the pitches,” he told CyBC radio.

He added that the law prohibits the use of hoods in the stands and questioned why the police did not intervene when they found that there were many hooded individuals in the stadium.

Commenting on fan clubs, he said that they also know very well who the troublemakers are, and that they should take on most of the blame.

In their criticism of Neophytides, ‘Isotita’ said that not only are the police trained for rioting, but they are also trained for dealing with match-fixing investigation that may include football players.

“It would be wiser to be careful when talking about the members of the security forces and for everyone to know the legal aspects of the issues in what is mentioned publicly. The professionals of each sector must know both their rights and their obligations,” they said.

Police said that troubles started before the match kicked off at 7pm on Sunday. During checks at the entrance, they arrested a 20-year-old who was caught with three torches in his possession.

Then, shortly after 6 pm, AEL fans threw firecrackers in the pitch damaging stands and seats, while during the departure of the Apollon players after their warm-up, they threw concrete chunks from the damaged stand.

Police called officials of the two teams to the operations centre and after showing footage of the incidents on CCTV, jointly informed the referee that for safety reasons the match could not go ahead.

Upon hearing the announcement, fans of the two teams started throwing firecrackers and lit torches into the playing area, while in the AEL stand a pile of seats that had been removed earlier were set on fire. The fire was extinguished by the fire service.

Later, shortly after of 8pm outside the stadium, fans of both teams attacked police with stones, Molotov cocktails and flares. Police said they used teargas and the water-cannon ‘Aiantas’ to regain control.

 

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