By George Koumoulli
“My best moment? I had so many good moments but the one that stands out is when I kicked a hooligan in the match against Crystal Palace.”
Eric Cantona, French former Manchester United footballer and actor
Once again the hooligans acted almost undisturbed – this time in the Apollon-APOEL match held at the “Alpha Mega Stadium” last Sunday. Once again, vandals hiding in the anonymity of the crowd unleashed their most animal instincts by destroying the seats and toilets of a new stadium. Once again we will say, to calm down, that the perpetrators are “brainless”. And finally, once again this event will be forgotten… History repeats itself.
The events that unfolded at the Limassol race compose an incredible story that should be included in the Guinness Book of World Records. It was announced by official lips that more than 230 police officers as well as a helicopter were mobilized by the Police to “maintain order”. Nevertheless, the hooligans of Apollo greeted the Apoelilists with stone-throwing (welcome to you). The authorities intervened with the use of the anti-riot vehicle Ajax, which threw water and managed to disperse the crowd outside the stadium that threw stones, but without arresting anyone. After the end of the match, vandals of the Nicosia team, completely undisturbed, destroyed the toilets and broke seats of the stadium and even at their leisure, since they had the bright idea to verify their identity with the swastika painting on the damaged seats. And the lingering question: what did the 230 policemen do when the vandals were doing their work undistracted? Is it possible that an army of policemen reinforced by helicopter cannot arrest any hooligans or vandals? It is done and done in Cyprus. No one has been arrested, not the slightest incriminating evidence has emerged for anyone! All were judged immaculate and uncontaminated except for one young man in whose possession a quantity of cannabis was found, i.e. unrelated to hooliganism and vandalism!
Two very serious issues arise after this struggle. First, the ineffectiveness of the Cyprus Police: it has clearly been proven that it is incapable of supervising a match and arresting those guilty of vandalism and hooliganism. In other words, the productivity of the members of the Police is minimal, if not zero, and this concerns all of us. The ordinary citizen asks: What is stopping a policeman from arresting a hooligan? Is it true that the police are influenced by the big unions and therefore do not make arrests? Only the Chief of Police could perhaps answer these questions and dispel the various whispers. If, of course, a nail is burned for the barbaric behavior of the “fans”.
The second issue, that of the anti-social behaviour of club supporters, is equally, if not more serious. I understand that the Ministry of Justice wants a memorandum of understanding on violence in stadiums to be signed by all parties involved. Judging by past actions, it is doubtful whether this vision will be realised. At the end of March, the Minister of Justice demanded that an investigation be completed into the outrages at “Tassos Papadopoulos-Eleftheria” in the “Final Four” of the Basketball Cup, another match that tarnished our sport. Two months have now passed and the investigation has not been prepared!
For decades, football and the far right have been interacting with each other in several countries, most notably Cyprus. This interaction often involves a small subset of fans – “ultras”, “casuals”, “hooligans”, definitions change depending on the country we are discussing – who are considered the most devoted, diehard fans of their football clubs and often engage in extreme violence against each other. In Cyprus there is a minority of hardline supporters of “nationalist” unions, known as organized or hooligans or ultras, led by far-rightists, acting as leverage for racist or ultranationalist purposes.
So, bearing in mind the image of Cyprus, how do we eradicate violence in stadiums? I firmly believe that there are only two effective measures. The first is the ban on national flags and symbols that have nothing to do with football, such as the Greek flag, the swastika, the Grivas flag, etc. First and foremost, it is an insult to the nation of Greeks to raise the Greek flag next to the swastika or banner of Grivas. Especially the leader of the criminal EOKA B. The progenitors of the terrible ordeal of Cyprus are directly Grivas and indirectly his court descendants. Apart from a moral issue, Grivas symbolizes violence, illegality, crime, intolerance, the blowing up of public property and, therefore, inevitably encourages followers to imitate his modus operandi.
The other measure would be to deduct points from groups guilty of hooliganism or vandalism. When a team realises that deducting points will probably leave them out of European competitions, then see what calm will prevail in the stadiums. Let’s not forget that the union leaders not only know who the ultras are, but they also know everything about them and can therefore control them if they wish.
*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of CypriumNews.