Cypriot football fixtures called off after bomb attack on referee

The Cyprus Football Association (CFA) on Friday called off all football fixtures after the referees announced they would stay away from soccer fields, protesting a bomb attack on one of their colleagues, a statement of the CFA said.

“CFA announces the postponement as of today of all scheduled championship games following a decision of referees to abstain (from officiating games),” the statement said.

It was not immediately clear whether the postponement would be indefinite or until referees returned to soccer fields.

The development was the latest twist in the Cypriot football, which culminated in the bomb attack after two first division clubs said that they would complain to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) about corrupt referees and CFA officials.

The bomb attack was made against the car of 33-year old referee Andreas Constantinou, who had been criticized by AEL of Limassol football club for bias during a recent game which ended in a 2-2 draw.

Police said the improvised bomb went off at 1:55 am local time on Friday on the front part of the car, which was parked in the garage of the apartment building where Constantinou lives in the southeastern city of Larnaca.

The car was extensively damaged.

There have been several bomb and arson attacks targeting referees’ properties in recent years in Cyprus amid claims of corruption.

Police said investigator turned their attention to Constantinou’s involvement with football, specifically to the game between AEL and last in the standings football club Doxa he had officiated earlier this month that ended in a 2-2 draw.

The CFA condemned the bombing, describing it as a terrorist act and said it was deeply concerned because the act was a blow to Cypriot football as a whole and it created a climate of fear among referees.

Following a request by the CFA, Justice Minister George Savvides called an urgent meeting on Friday with CFA president George Koumas and the chief of police to consider developments.

Addressing the annual athletic awards event of the Athletic Journalists Union on Thursday night, Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades called for “red cards” to be shown to some referees, “who in cooperation with corrupt football officials, are responsible for the red files on games which are suspected of having been manipulated.”

He was referring to an announcement by the CFA on Wednesday that it has received from the UEFA five files for two second division games and three cup games for which there was evidence of having been fixed.

The UEFA said there had been unusually heavy betting on the five games.

Anastasiades said it was time to eliminate the scourge of fixed games and warned that there would be no tolerance whatsoever by the state, which would encourage “some people who have no ties with sports but are connected to criminals, to tarnish the name of Cypriot football and that of the country.”