Football hooliganism back, police criticised

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Football hooliganism is back, with its latest victim, a 20-year-old man in hospital in a serious condition with burns to 45% of his body, after being hit with a Molotov cocktail during violence outside the ground.

Following the incident, authorities received fierce criticism for not taking hooliganism incidents seriously enough.

The 20-year-old was an innocent bystander who had rushed to put out a fire in a field near his house, which started after rival fans clashed on the streets outside Larnaca’s Antonis Papadopoulos stadium.

Before Saturday’s game between Limassol’s Apollon and Anorthosis Famagusta, the fans hurled flares at each other, setting fire to a nearby field.

According to eyewitnesses, the victim had rushed to put out the blaze, only to be hit by what was described as a Molotov cocktail, with his clothes catching fire instantly.

Politicians and law enforcement have criticised their perceived ‘inaction’.

News site Philenews noted the Presidential Palace and the police declined to comment over the incident, while eyewitnesses claim police stood by watching as the trouble unfolded.

Football hooliganism is back after a short respite following two years of the coronavirus restrictions.

Hooliganism was supposed to be contained by the ‘fan card’, which was to help monitor attendance at stadiums and identify troublemakers.

However, the latest incident is just one of many that have scarred Cypriot football for decades and kept families from going to matches.

A video making the rounds on social media shows Apollon fans throwing stones at Anorthosis supporters while special anti-riot police watch but do not intervene.

Two weeks earlier, hundreds of APOEL fans reportedly entered Limassol’s Tsirion stadium, where their team played Aris, without tickets or a fan card.

Meanwhile, two men, 22 and 30, have turned themselves in after arrest warrants were issued over the incident at the Larnaca stadium.

Both were charged in writing for rioting and assault and were released to appear in court later.

The 20-year-old victim of the latest hooliganism attack is intubated at Nicosia General, with doctors reporting he is in a serious but stable condition.