Tasos Markou | Lashings of the Old Football Violence

EN Paralimni 2-0 PAC Omonoia

📍 Tasos Markou | Paralimni, CY
🏆 Protathlima “B” Kategoria
⚽ Cyprus (Tier 2)
📅 Sat 4 Dec 21 | 2.30pm
🎟️ €10 | Att: ?

With the recent COVID-driven increase in stadium restrictions across Europe (specifically Germany and the Netherlands), it’s likely that my overseas trips are now done for the calendar year.

I will return to the UK over New Years’ to see family (and hopefully fit a few games in), but for now, it’s back to the familiar fun and games of Cypriot football, starting with a Saturday afternoon in the B Kategoria.

This particular trip has actually been some months in the making, with an acquaintance keen to introduce me first-hand to PAC Omonoia – a breakaway club founded by disgruntled fans of the Cypriot champions, Omonoia Nicosia.

Outside the Tasos Markou

Who Are PAC Omonoia?

Created in 2018, PAC has risen quickly from the regional fifth tier to its current standing in the second tier. Modelled on FC United of Manchester, it is a fully fan-owned and professionally-operated club, supported by an extensive network of volunteers and paid members.

Currently sitting in twelfth position, it seems as though the club’s rapid ascent has started to plateau, although I’m informed that recent results – a run of 4 straight defeats (and 6 without a win) – have not been helped by an extensive injury list.

Opponents Paralimni, meanwhile, are flying high. One of the country’s oldest clubs, the Vissini have fluctuated between the top two tiers in recent seasons, and are well-placed to return to the top table next year.

An Eventful Day Out at the Tasos Markou

The trip itself starts colourfully with an organised rendezvous on the motorway some 10 miles outside of Paralimni. The club’s ultras put on an impromptu pyro show and tag some nearby road barriers, with around 600 or so black-clad fans gathering together for the last stint of the journey. My acquaintance introduces me to several of these supporters as a Cardiff fan, with visitors from other clubs who wish to show solidarity with the project often well-received at PAC games.

At the ground itself, another colourful demonstration of support takes place in the car park, before we make our way slowly through the lone turnstile that is in operation. Unlike at other Cypriot games, I am not asked for my COVID pass, or to display the government-mandated fan card (as is often the case at Tsirion). Disappointingly (and for the second time in two weeks), I’m not even searched!

At this point, it’s pertinent to shift gears rather drastically and explain the role that enosis – the idea of Greece and Cyprus as a single Hellenic state – plays in Cypriot football. Many clubs on the island are aligned with this concept (hence the large number of Greek flags that can be found at, for instance, APOEL, Apollon, and Anorthosis games), and some clubs were even created as a direct result of support for this movement. EN Paralimni – or Enosis Neon Paralimni – are one of these clubs.

Conversely, PAC – as with the “original” Omonoia – are heavily left-leaning, and one of the core beliefs of its fan base is the preservation of Cyprus as a sole, independent nation. It’s no surprise, then, that Paralimni’s supporters are keen to exploit this idealistic divide, hanging two large banners that read “Mad about enosis” and “Oso yparxei Parthenonas tha yparxei enosis” (“as long as there is the Parthenon, there will be enosis”).

My acquaintance explains that there have been “issues” previously between Paralimni and Gate 9 (back when Gate 9 was affiliated with Omonoia) and that, due to both this history and today’s “provocation”, there is the potential for more trouble today.

At any rate, the game itself starts without incident, before the hosts take a 6th minute lead through Andreas Ilia. The pitch itself is frustratingly slow, restricting the fluidity of both teams, although PAC’s injury-ravaged XI give a good account of themselves. Indeed, Alexandros Ieridis misses a glorious chance to level the scores on the hour, before the home side’s Portuguese left-back Luis da Silva goes straight up the other end and makes the points safe.

And then things start to go a little off-kilter. During the post-match salute ritual between PAC’s players and supporters (conducted week-in, week-out, regardless of result), there is a roar of displeasure and a brief moment of confusion, before suddenly – almost in the blink of an eye – half of the stand empties.

Across the field, it’s clear why. Chairs (and other objects) are being launched and fighting has broken out between 100 or so people; Paralimni’s main supporters’ section is hurriedly wrapping up their banner for preservation, which, it seems, is the target for a select group of 20 or so hooded PAC fans that have gotten into the home stand (in the UK, little importance is placed on flags and banners, but in Europe, for an organised fans group to lose its banner is anathema).

This trouble continues on and off for the next 30 minutes or so; while it’s unclear to see from where we are standing, later reports indicate that police have stepped in and regained “control” of the situation, making an arrest (and later putting out a request for information to make further arrests).

It’s an unsavoury end to what has been a well-contested, enjoyable match, played out in front of an excellent atmosphere, although it must be said that the subsequent responses of each party – PAC, Paralimni, and the police – read like a combined exercise in blame shifting, with nobody really covering themselves in glory.

On reflection, it remains to be seen whether the day’s events will result in sanctions, punishments, or broader-scale changes at this level, but it’s certainly been an interesting experience spending the day with a unique, spirited, and fiercely-supported club. Up next for Paralimni is the short trip to Deryneia to take on Anegennisi, while PAC host Onisilos Sotira.

Postscript: Paralimni ultimately benefitted from the restructuring of the Cypriot football pyramid, their 4th place finish enough to secure promotion back to the top flight. PAC, meanwhile, continued to represent a mixed bag on the field, finishing 5 points above the relegation zone in 10th place.