Hooligans destroy stadium, bus station

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Justice Minister Anna Prokopiou held an urgent meeting at the ministry on Monday to review the latest episode of sports violence which took place during and after the Apollon-Anorthosis basketball match on Sunday, with two people were arrested so far.

Hooligans went on a rampage, causing thousands of euros in damage to the Eleftheria-Tassos Papadopoulos stadium in Nicosia, while setting fire and destroying the nearby offices of the Cyprus Public Transport company.

According to the police, two fans were arrested for involvement in the troubles at the game, with more arrests expected within the day.

The violence broke out at halftime for the semi-final of the Cyprus Cup. The incidents started when rival fans unhinged plastic seats of the north and east stands during halftime and threw them at each other.

The Cyprus Basketball Federation said the games have been postponed for Tuesday, without saying if the Anorthosis – Apollon game would resume from where it was interrupted by the violence.

According to news reports, the incident started as a low-key situation outside the arena between Apollon supporters and police, as the fans from Limassol tried to enter the facility without inspection.

The incident seems to have escalated, when smoke bombs were used inside the arena while outside there was total mayhem, including fires, property damage, and loitering.

Police officers used teargas, forcing troublemakers to leave the stadium, who on their way out took aim at the nearby bus terminal of the Cyprus Public Transport Company.

Hooligans had set fire to the prefab offices, burning them down.

Reports say that hooligans had used smoke bombs stolen from police vehicles they had ransacked on their way out of the stadium.

Six patrol vehicles were reportedly destroyed, while riot gear items including tear gas was stolen.

Authorities and the police have come under fire as according to reports, all parties involved failed to take sufficient measures at the Eleftheria stadium, ignoring reports that violence was expected.

Meanwhile, according to a police announcement, an officer has been suspended after found to have been onboard one of the buses carrying Apollon fans, with reports suggesting he was unwilling to cooperate with investigators.

The officer in question is reported to have been a member of the former President Nicos Anastasiades’ guard and currently serving in the guard of another cabinet member.

Incidents increasing

Just three months into the year, this was the third incident of sports hooliganism, following a number of incidents last year.

Earlier in January, clashes between AEL and Apollon football fans caused €25,000 worth of damages to Limassol’s brand new AlphaMega Stadium, home to three top-flight teams.

Violence broke out at halftime of the local derby for the Cup, when rival fans unhinged plastic seats of the north and east stands during halftime and threw them at each other.

The fans of the two Limassol clubs had clashed again in December at their teams’ last standoff at their previous home stadium, the Tsirion.

In the same week as the troubles at the AlphaMega Stadium, police arrested a 22-year-old AEK Larnaca fan for slinging objects from the stand to the opposing Nea Salamina fans at another Cup game.

In October last year, hooligans clashed after the APOEL – AEL game in Nicosia’s GSP stadium. Hooligans had set fields and cars ablaze, causing extensive damage.

Authorities have been under fire over the failure to control a recent outburst of hooliganism on sports grounds.

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

However, the latest incidents are reminiscent of many that have scarred Cypriot football for decades and prevented families from going to matches.