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AEL celebration marred by vandalism.


Jacqueline Agathocleous

LIMASSOL town was buzzing throughout the weekend, after its local football club AEL became league champions for the first time in 44 years.

The streets were alight with flares, people were hanging out of moving cars waving flags and jubilant fans were shouting chants and singing songs -- but sadly it didn't end there, with countless incidents of vandalism and a lack of police presence reported.

AEL beat Anorthosis Famagusta on Saturday, which coupled with APOEL's defeat to AC Omonia, made the Limassol team's championship victory a mathematical certainty. They will officially be crowned champions this Saturday, after they play against AC Omonia.

Starting off the championship as outsiders, the Limassol team went on to become favourites after entering the play-off group stages, eventually being crowned champions for the sixth time and the first time in 44 years.

The last time a Limassol team won the championship was with AEL's eternal rivals Apollon FC in 2005-2006.

But the championship was not welcomed by all Limassol residents.

The Cyprus Mail received a number of complaints from distressed members of the public, who all agreed on a complete lack of police presence, while fans rampaged through the town's streets. Buildings were vandalised, windows were broken and bins were set alight.

"0.1 per cent of the population terrorises the other 99.9 per cent," said one reader, Michael Thomaides, who said he was speaking on behalf of "a great deal of people" who feel the same way.

He said despite countless calls to Limassol and Nicosia police headquarters, no police or firemen arrived to deal with the mayhem.

"The Makarios roundabout destroyed; graffiti on shop windows, walls, pavements, roads; explosions of home-made bombs," said Thomaides. "Bank windows shuttered from explosions and stones, alarms ringing, road signs knocked down and destroyed, public dustbins set alight. Private and public property destroyed. What shall the 99.9 per cent do? Stop paying taxes? Take out our rifles and protect our property?"

He wondered who would pay for the damage, other than the taxpayer.

"I and other shop/property owners should not have to stand outside our properties protecting them from intoxicated hooligans, without police support or have to worry if our children will come under attack because they went out for a pizza on Saturday night," said Thomaides.

Robert Beeks was returning from an event in Larnaca with his wife and three young children in the car when, as they approached their home near the Ayios Nicolaos round-about, they came across scores of hooligans banging on cars and stopping traffic.

Countless calls to the police resulted in them being told to go to the station and file a complaint, but by this time, Beeks' youngest was crying in fear.

And it got worse on Sunday. Starting off early in the day, the situation just deteriorated throughout the day.

"As the evening progressed the situation rapidly worsened with fires being set all around my house and senseless vandalism occurring everywhere," said Beeks. "I phoned the police twelve times pleading for them to send some help. On numerous occasions they simply closed the phone. I phoned the fire department numerous times pleading for help. The fire department advised me that they wouldn't come because the hooligans threw rocks at them. My neighbours and my wife also phoned the police and fire brigade. It was obvious that my neighbours and I would have to take control of the situation if we wanted to save our homes from being destroyed and our families from being harmed."

So Beeks and his 15-year-old daughter started using a hose and buckets to put out fires surrounding their house; until four masked men chased them away.

And it looks like the celebrations are far from over as AEL will be holding a celebratory fiesta at the Tsirion Stadium on Saturday night, to officially mark becoming champions.

A police spokesman yesterday said: "If 7,000 or 10,000 people are out in the streets, it's hard to have police everywhere."

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2012

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:May 8, 2012
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