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Violence in the Sun

A History of Football Hooliganism in Cyprus

When British detective Michael Layton took a police posting on the sun-kissed island of Cyprus, he was looking forward to “long sandy beaches, blue skies and equally blue seas, sleepy villages, cold beers, and good food”. He found all of those things, but also something sinister: a culture of football violence that exceeded anything he had seen even in the darkest days of the UK game.

Layton was an expert on soccer hooliganism but what he witnessed over the next few years shook him to the core. Supporters of the so-called Big Five clubs, APOEL, Apollon, AEL, Omonia and Anorthosis, were locked in a series of bitter and enduring rivalries that routinely led to mayhem on match days. Often with radically opposed political affiliations, the various “ultras” gangs launched attack after attack on each other, seemingly oblivious to the consequences.

Mass brawls, knifings and, most disturbing of all, a number of bomb attacks led to countless injuries and even death. No-one was safe, with players, match officials and police all being routinely targeted.

Now Layton, who led the successful Operation Red Card into Birmingham City hooligans in the late 1980s and was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal, has written the first-ever account of this extraordinary phenomenon. From firsthand experience and research, he traces the recent history of the problem in the Republic of Cyprus, highlighting the most startling incidents, and proposes a series of counter-measures to eradicate the gangs and their thuggery.


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