NICOSIA – Cyprus’ governing soccer federation said it had prevented a continuing strike by referees fearful for their safety and that of their families after the alleged firebombing of a car belonging to a referee’s mother.
It was the latest in a string of troubling and violent incidents that have plagued the game in Cyprus without the soccer body or any government able to stop it despite vows of cracking down.
The federation said that two days of talks and much “serious contemplation” resulted in referees’ agreeing to get back to work right away, ahead of a full slate of First Division matches after a one-day strike postponed a key game.
A statement on the organization’s website said that it and the referees will keep talking, along with the Justice Minister and Chief of Police to find ways to ensure the safety of referees who have been targets of teams fans.
Cyprus Football Association President George Koumas sent letters to the heads of the First Division’s 14 teams asking for their contribution in “easing tensions” by taking specific measures that would likely be kept secret.
“The CFA reiterates its determination to support referees in carrying out their duties and condemns whichever actions are directed against referees and their family members,” the statement said.
Referees had reportedly said they were fed up with becoming the targets of criminal actions against themselves, their families and property over what some fans say is shoddy officiating and that no attacks have ever been solved.
The CFA had suspended top-flight games in the country and declared “unquestionable” support for officials, who are demanding improved security measures for themselves and their families, said The Guardian.
Reports in Cyprus said a vehicle belonging to the mother of the referee Menelaos Antoniou burst into flames on Sept. 19, with police confirming they were investigating the incident in another apparent attempt at intimidation.
Antoniou had taken charge of a top-flight game between Limassol and Paphos the night before but the incident led to the game between Salamina and Ethnikos being postponed over security worries.
“The CFA once again expresses its deep concern about the repeated malicious actions and the creation of terrorism against our referees. Our support for the referees and their families is unquestionable, and we hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice through police investigations,” it said.
In June the Cyprus Referees Association headquarters was targeted with a bomb, while a car bomb placed on a referee’s vehicle in 2020 caused the suspension of the game for a week.
Previous attacks date back to 2015, including another focused on a referee’s mother, with speculation that the cause of the attacks is related to attempted match‑fixing and corruption in the game, the report said.