If you have ever watched a football match from either the Greek, Italian or Turkish leagues, you will notice one thing that stands out a lot in the crowds – flares. They are as common at matches in these countries as pies and Bovril in the British game. Used primarily by Ultras (club’s more fanatical support), they are a demonstration of their love for the club but also an effort to intimidate the opposing fans and players. Occasionally they are thrown onto the pitches, close to the goalkeeper but usually with little effect than to disrupt the game momentarily.
This however, was not the case in a local game this past Sunday between second placed Anorthosis and sixth placed Omonia Nicosia of the Cypriot First Division. In the second half of the game, one of the Anorthosis players was down injured with medical staff treating him, when a flare was thrown onto the pitch just feet away from them. Moments later, the flare exploded, sending players and medical staff scrambling to the ground, clutching their ears and faces. The game was suspended for 10 minutes whilst everyone was treated and the police arrested the culprit in the stand.
The game resumed and Anorthosis went on to win the match, taking them to the top of the league but the day was scarred by the event. Flares are a major issue for UEFA and FIFA to tackle and tighter rules have been drawn up but it comes down to the clubs and it’s security staff to enforces these rules or pay the penalty. As we highlight in a recent blog about another incident where a live grenade was thrown onto the pitch in Iran (http://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/a-lucky-escape/), player safety is the principle concern so until the clubs can control their fans and their actions, football will always be faced with these sort of events.
Check out video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjBzM3InrYY