Financial Mirror (Cyprus)
Government asks for report on hooliganism incident
President Nicos Anastasiades told police to compile a report on the incident of football hooliganism, during which a 20-year-old Evripides Frangou was left with burns covering 45% of his body.
Several days after the events of Saturday, which started after rival fans clashed on the streets outside Larnaca’s Antonis Papadopoulos stadium, the government stepped in to demand answers after criticism of apathy.
In a statement, government spokesperson Marios Pelekanos said the President had instructed police to strengthen their presence at football games, demonstrating the necessary rigour to prevent any more incidents of football violence.
“The unequivocal condemnation of any form of violence is, unfortunately, a necessary action.
“As the government, we wish to make it clear that any acts of violence or delinquent behaviour will be confronted, and we will be relentless to prevent the occurrence of such phenomena,” said Pelekanos.
Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela expressed his full support to the family of the 20-year-old man who suffered burns during a hospital visit he paid to the victim on Wednesday. The minister visited Frangou at Nicosia General Hospital, where he was treated on Wednesday, and received a detailed update on his condition.
His condition, according to his doctors, is serious but stable.
Hadjipantelas wished the victim a speedy recovery and assured the family that his ministry would assist in any way requested.
The man was injured before Saturday’s game between Limassol’s Apollon and Anorthosis Famagusta when the fans hurled flares, setting fire to a nearby field.
According to eyewitnesses, the victim had rushed to put out the blaze and had caught fire himself.
It was not immediately clear what had happened, with some eyewitnesses saying that he was hit by what was described as a Molotov cocktail, with his clothes catching fire instantly.
Police now say the man may have stepped on a flammable object thrown by fans.
Following the incident, politicians and law enforcement have been criticised for their perceived ‘inaction’.
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.
Police officers fired back at the claims, with union official Nicos Loizides saying the force does not enjoy the necessary support of the political establishment.
In comments to Kathimerini Cyprus, Loizides said he could not remember the last time politicians had come out to support officers.
“Our hands are tied. There is no question of inaction. We don’t know how to react in such cases. In previous incidents, members of the force have been accused of excessive violence and were targeted by public opinion,” said Loizides.
He argued that the numbering on officers’ helmets should be removed as “officers making arrests at games are later targeted by fans who take note of their serial numbers”.
Two men aged 30 and 22 were charged in writing after admitting involvement in the violence, while eight more are still wanted. The police have published their details and photos. After a short respite following two years of coronavirus restrictions, football hooliganism incidents are back.
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.