Police were on Friday are searching for the identity of a man who shot a flare at a low-flying police helicopter shortly before the Ael-Omonia cup final at GSP stadium on Wednesday.
Speaking to CyBC radio, police spokesman Christos Andreou said the flare shot at the force’s helicopter was an “extremely serious” offence and issued a call for information to the public to aid authorities who are going through footage of the incident.
After the match, further episodes ensued on Makarios Avenue where fans gathered to celebrate and riot police used tear gas to disperse the crowd after rocks, flares and other items were thrown, as well as fires set, in parallel scenes similar to those in Limassol.
Andreou said that eight people had been arrested in total before and after the match. Of six arrests made for possession of dangerous items, two involved minors, Andreou said.
The remaining four appeared before the Nicosia district court on Thursday charged with possession of explosive materials, such as flares and smoke bombs. Their trials have been scheduled for June and July and they have meanwhile been banned from entry into sports venues.
Andreou told CyBC that the types of flares football hooligans are using are not to be confused with standard flares.
“They are extremely dangerous items and can cause severe injury and damage and, in some cases, can be shot directly like a projectile,” Andreou explained.
The police spokesman said that in the first three months of this year police had seized a total of 4,007 flares and other objects, which perpetrators had procured from the north and via the mail.
Omonia fans, meanwhile, decried the use of tear gas by police to disperse them during celebrations on Makarios Avenue as “unjustified, irresponsible and reckless.”
“The truth is that troublemakers could be counted on one hand. The mass of fans reacted after the spraying of tear gas. We condemn the behaviour of the five or six instigators,” the club said.
As regards incidents in Limassol, Andreou also confirmed reports that all three men arrested were members of the Alphamega stadium’s security team.
The three, aged 37, 38 and 53, were arrested for hiding a backpack containing smoke bombs and flares in a false ceiling of the men’s bathroom, before the Apollon-Apoel match on Sunday.
Speaking after violent episodes late Wednesday night outside the Ael clubhouse, Limassol mayor Nicos Nicolaides clarified the site had not in fact been open at the time as previously reported.
The clubhouse had its licence revoked two years ago, the mayor explained, as it was operating illegally as a pub, which is not permitted in the area.
As a gesture of goodwill, the municipal authorities after speaking with club managers, had agreed to issue a temporary permit for the venue to operate as a coffee shop, which is allowed, the mayor said.
Nicolaides stressed that this arrangement would go ahead under very strict conditions, such as limitations on days and hours of operation, and restrictions on any expansion of the premises.
Asked if this was a sensible tactic to prevent hooliganism, the mayor said police had been consulted on the matter, and that curtailing hooliganism includes finding ways to “isolate” fringe elements and for club managers to assume responsibility for their fans.
The permit to operate a coffee shop cum clubhouse, is to be issued on a two-month trial basis and will be revoked if abused, the mayor said. A similar arrangement has been reached for the Apollon clubhouse.