Cyprus football back on but doubts linger

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The green light has been given for Cyprus football matches to resume after referees staged a strike at the weekend in response to a bomb attack against one of their members.

Refs withdrew their strike action after reassurances from the Cyprus Football Association and the Justice Minister that measures will be taken to clamp down on attacks on referees.

Last week, Cyprus referees said they were particularly concerned as the latest bomb attack was the sixteenth carried out against one of their members in the past decade. The attack against the referee came amid severe criticism that Cyprus football is corrupt.

European football governing body UEFA has sent in five notifications regarding matches they found to have been fixed.

Talking to reporters after a meeting with referees and the CFA on Monday, Justice Minister George Savvides said that a number of measures to prevent attacks on referees and end match-fixing will be taken.

He has appointed a Ministry official who will act as a point of contact for referees, but also anyone who may have information on match-fixing.

Savvides said that the Citizens’ Hot Line 1460 is also to act as a “Red Button” for anyone who wants to blow the whistle on fixed games.

Police will provide increased security at games for referees who may feel they are under threat.

He urged clubs like Omonia Nicosia and AEL, who have alerted international football governing bodies UEFA and FIFA about corruption in the local game, to come forward with evidence to “end the silence”.

Earlier this month, Omonia Nicosia and AEL Limassol asked UEFA and FIFA to investigate the matter while Omonia urged the European football governing body UEFA to suspend Cypriot teams from all international competition.

“We believe there is widespread corruption in Cypriot football and the situation is not likely to change under the current Cyprus FA leadership,” Omonia said in a statement.

“Fixed games sadly remain a common practice and a widespread reality in our world,” the club said.

Chief of Police Kypros Michaelides said investigations into the notifications sent in by UEFA are picking up speed.

Police had arrested a second division footballer on Sunday, only to let him go after no evidence of his involvement emerged.

He was arrested on the basis of a video which allegedly showed him making things easier for the opposing team in a goal-scoring position. It later transpired the player was not involved in the suspicious incident.

On Monday, police arrested another second division player on the same charges.

CFA boss George Koumas said he hoped that with government help “the championship will resume without any notifications of fixed games and without violence”.

He said that fixtures scheduled for last weekend are to be played this weekend. Midweek cup games are also to go ahead.