Football referees in Cyprus go on strike after latest car bomb attack

<span>Photograph: Carl Recine/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Carl Recine/AFP/Getty Images

Referees in Cyprus have gone on indefinite strike after an apparent arson attack on a car belonging to an official’s mother, the latest incident in a campaign of terror that has run for nearly a decade.

The Cyprus Football Association has suspended top-flight games in the country and declared “unquestionable” support for officials, who are demanding improved security measures for themselves and their families.

Reports in Cyprus said a vehicle belonging to the mother of the referee Menelaos Antoniou had burst into flame early on Monday morning, with police confirming they were investigating the incident.

Antoniou had taken charge of a top-flight fixture between Limassol and Pafos on Sunday night. The game between Salamina and Ethnikos, which had been scheduled for Monday night, was subsequently postponed, with the CFA confirming a strike by officials due to “repeated malicious actions” against referees.

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A statement from the CFA said referees would be stepping back from their roles “until further notice”. The statement read: “The CFA has received a letter from the referees, stating that they have taken this decision due to the continuous attacks they and their families have been subjected to, as well as the fact that no case has been solved by the competent authorities.

“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.”

The incident on Monday is the latest in a long-running series of attacks. 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 football 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 in Cypriot football.