A first division football match due to be played on Monday night was called off after a group of referees announced an indefinite strike because they are often the targets of violence and threats of violence.
The strike was called after an explosive device went off on Monday morning in the car belonging to the mother of a referee who had officiated a match the previous day. Fortunately, nobody was injured in the explosion in Lakatamia.
Less than three weeks ago, at the beginning of the month, an explosive device had been placed in the car of another referee, presumably by brainless football hooligans. Again, nobody was injured but nobody wants to do a job that makes him or her a target for bomb attacks and death threats.
Under the circumstances, the referees’ strike is not only justified it is imperative, if only to force the police to try to do something about the violence. There have been several bomb attacks against referees, but not a single perpetrator has ever been caught and brought to justice. This could hardly be described as reassuring or make a referee feel safe.
In fact, it is truly surprising that there are people in Cyprus still willing to do this job. In what other job could making a mistake make the employee the target of a bomb attack? This is the plight of a Cyprus referee – if he misses a hand ball or foul during a game, he and his family could become the target of hooligans.
While it was good that the Cyprus Football Association supported the referees’ strike, it was a bit hypocritical given that the Association’s members – the clubs – often stir hostility against referees by issuing announcements accusing them of bias, thus encouraging hooligans’ unlawful actions.
If the CFA wants to protect referees, it must instruct the clubs to stop targeting them after matches. They should encourage fans to accept that a ref, being human, could make a mistake or two in a match, and that this is not specific to Cyprus football, but happens in every country where the game is played.
Apart from changing attitudes towards refereeing, the Association must put pressure on the police and the justice ministry to take the violence and threats against refs more seriously. More resources should be allocated for police investigations because the failure to make a single arrest for an attack is not good enough.
If the police managed to charge a perpetrator for an attack and put him behind bars, the attacks would end. Police’s failure to ever find the culprits perpetuates this type of violence. Perhaps the police command does not want to use up resources investigating attacks on referees.
The strike could force the police into action, as they will also be under pressure to do something from fans and clubs that would not like to go for weeks without matches.