Cyprus FA suspends all matches after ref walkout over attack

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The Cypriot soccer federation decided Friday to suspend all matches after a referee walkout because of a bombing attack against a colleague’s car.

The federation said all matches are on hold indefinitely.

Police said the predawn detonation of an explosive device placed on the hood of the car caused extensive damage.

The federation earlier condemned the attack against referee Andreas Constantinou’s vehicle as an “act of terrorism” that breeds fear among referees and harms the sport.

The development comes in the wake of fresh match-fixing allegations amid what UEFA said was suspicious betting activity on three second-division matches and a pair of cup matches.

The allegations prompted a pledge by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to clean up the sport.

“We’ll no longer tolerate some criminal elements who have nothing to do with the sport to blacken the name of Cypriot football and of the country,” Anastasiades said ahead of a Cyprus Sports Journalists’ Union event.

Referees were irked by Anastasiades’ remarks during the event that some referees are in cahoots with corrupt individuals within the sport that lead international soccer bodies to point the finger at Cyprus over suspected match-fixing.

Anastasiades said that it was “time to clean house” so that fans return to the stands without fear over “who and how they wagered and what will be the outcome of the match.”

In a statement Friday, the Cyprus Referees’ Association said such statements unfairly paint all referees with the same brush and “offer cover to those who are really responsible.”

The association strongly criticized what it called “ill-advised” remarks by officials and sports journalists targeting referees that “only pour fuel on the fire” by potentially prompting such attacks.

It also urged journalists to fairly critique referees instead of hurling “incendiary remarks.”

Cyprus Justice Minister George Savvides convened an impromptu meeting on Friday with soccer federation president Giorgos Koumas and police chief Kypros Michaelides to discuss the referee walkout and the match-fixing allegations.

Speaking after the meeting, Savvides conceded that getting to the bottom of the case was difficult because information provided by UEFA doesn’t point to who may have been responsible for any match-fixing and expressed hope that some people “would talk.”

The minister said UEFA will be asked to send experts to Cyprus to assist authorities in their investigation.

Savvides said law enforcement was being hindered by the fact that no Cypriot law exists permitting telephone wire-tapping for serious crimes. Savvides appealed to lawmakers to pass the relevant legislation next week.