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Knife incident raises football security fears

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An incident involving an Iranian guarding a football club official who was seen carrying a machete has left authorities red-faced as the man was found to be on the island illegally.

According to reports, the Iranian was arrested after violence broke out at APOEL Nicosia’s game with Karmiotissa FC at the GSP stadium on Friday.

Allegedly, a member of the away team’s administration sitting in the executive boxes jumped into the crowd after being provoked by APOEL fans.

Two bodyguards also jumped out of the box, fighting with APOEL fans, with one of the guards wielding a 21-centimetre-long knife.

The Iranian, 34, was placed under arrest by police.

He appeared before a Nicosia district court on Monday, which remanded him in custody for four days.

Officers also found an iron fist with a built-in knife in a trash bin near the stadium’s boxes.

The trouble did not end after the incident with the bodyguard and Karmiotissa officials, as fans of the two teams clashed following the game.

Authorities, including the stadium’s security, the Cyprus Football Association and the government, have found themselves at the centre of fierce criticism.

Critics say the GSP stadium and the CFA did not follow security procedures. At the same time, the government have come under fire over how an illegal immigrant was working as a security guard.

Questions were raised as the Iranian did not have the compulsory ‘fan card’, which authorities use to help monitor stadium attendance and identify troublemakers.

Anybody entering a first division stadium in Cyprus must carry a ‘fan card’.

The Iranian could not have been issued a fan card and was also able to transfer a large knife into the ground.

GSP General Manager Phivos Constantinides admitted that it is common practice for authorities at stadia not to ask VIP guests for identification and a fan card.

“The person in question was not checked or searched for dangerous items, as he was part of the team’s delegation,” said Constantinides.

Meanwhile, a 46-year man from Limassol was arrested in connection with the clashes that followed the game.

Reportedly the man is a Limassol businessman who is a Karmiotissa official.

Police would not confirm the man’s identity.

As the Financial Mirror was informed, the 46-year-old Greek Cypriot is being treated in hospital for injuries sustained during the clashes. However, he has not been remanded in custody.

Both men will appear in court on 13 October and face charges of hooliganism and refusing to abandon the ground when authorities asked them.

The Iranian will also face charges of illegally entering the country and carrying dangerous weapons.