Cyprus

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APOEL rejects coach’s resignation offer after poor showing

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) The board of directors of Cyprus champion APOEL has rejected coach Giorgos Donis’ resignation offer after a 1-1 draw with last-placed Ethnikos left the team well back in the standings.

Donis said after Saturday’s game that he took full responsibility for APOEL’s lackluster performances. But in a tweet, APOEL’s top brass said they don’t accept the Greek coach’s resignation and “it’s everyone’s obligation to correct the situation.”

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The team sits in eighth place, 11 points behind leader AEK Larnaca but with three games in hand.

APOEL faces Borussia Dortmund next week in a Champions League Group H game.

APOEL managed a 1-1 home draw against the German champion last week for its first point in the competition after successive 3-0 losses to Real Madrid and Tottenham.

Malta captain mutes goal celebration after journalist slain

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Malta captain Andre Schembri says the car bomb slaying of a Maltese investigative journalist prompted him not to exult after scoring an historic goal.

Schembri’s temporary equalizer for Cypriot club Apollon in a 3-1 loss to Italian side Atalanta in the Europa League on Thursday made him the first Maltese player to score in proper European competition – excluding qualifying.

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But instead of pumping his fist or leaping in joy over the achievement, Schembri hung his head as teammates mobbed him.

Schembri wrote on Facebook on Friday, “Celebrating my goal didn’t feel right after what happened in Malta this week.”

Malta has been stunned since Monday by the slaying of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an anti-corruption reporter whose targets included Malta’s leading politicians.

“When they killed Daphne I wasn’t able to sleep for three nights,” Schembri told the ANSA news agency. “Malta is Europe, it’s not the third world. We need to be united when faced with grief like this, to say that we’re better than all of this.

“I love my country and with that goal it came naturally to me to think about a reporter’s freedom and the life of a mother of three children.”

Cyprus imposes harsh penalties for suspected match-fixing

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) The Cypriot soccer association followed through with a pledge to impose harsh penalties on any clubs suspected of match-fixing after UEFA ranked the country’s championship to be among the worst offenders in Europe.

The executive board said penalties that come into force Tuesday will begin with a 50,000 euro ($53,085) fine for a first offense, followed by a six-point loss and a 50,000 euro fine for a second. Two-time offenders will be held back from moving up a division if they’re eligible. A third offense will mean relegation and a halt to all funding. Offenders caught a fourth time will incur a five-year ban and a 100,000 euro ($106,170) fine.

The penalties mirror those recommended by UEFA, with the biggest difference being that the Cypriot association saved the harshest punishment for clubs flagged by UEFA for match-fixing suspicions for a fourth time instead of three.

No action will be taken if a match suspected to have been fixed fails to deliver a result favored by suspicious betting activity.

Cypriot officials said rampant match-fixing in the national championship was possibly linked to betting in Asia. The Cyprus soccer association has received files on 75 matches suspected of being fixed since 2011.

“I believe the measures are severe and that the association will support them,” Association Deputy President George Koumas said.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the only way the problem can be dealt with is if authorities put their words into action.

“This is a situation that insults our championship and indeed our country,” Nicolaou told reporters. “No one should drag their feet on this in the slightest, and the Cyprus soccer association must act quickly and decisively.”

Nicolaou said strict penalties won’t be enough to stop match-fixing without giving authorities the legal tools to go after the perpetrators, including a law lifting curbs on wiretaps. The justice minister said he’s aiming to put a comprehensive anti-match fixing law to a vote in parliament early next year.

Makeshift bomb explodes on Cypriot referee’s car

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) The Cyprus Football Association has condemned a bomb attack against the car of a top referee, calling it a blight on the island’s footballing family and society in general.

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The association says it stands by referee Georgios Nicolaou and urges police to track down and bring the culprits of Tuesday’s pre-dawn bombing to justice.

Police say the explosion occurred while the car was parked outside the 41-year-old’s home in the Larnaca area. The front of the car sustained extensive damage.

A string of attacks against the property of Cypriot referees have occurred in the past two years.

The most recent previous attack took place in March 2015 against the car of another referee that was set ablaze after being doused with flammable liquid.

The strange trip of U.S. U-23 back Shane O’Neill heads to England

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What a weird journey it’s been for former Colorado Rapids youngster Shane O’Neill.

As long as the paperwork goes through, England is about to have another American competitor. The 22-year-old Irish-born defender is leaving Cypriot side Apollon Limassol to join Cambridge United on loan.

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The U’s are three points out of a promotion playoff spot in League Two, England’s fourth-tier. Cambridge is managed by longtime Crystal Palace, QPR and Leeds midfielder Shaun Derry.

O’Neill has made 22 appearances for the United States’ U-20 and U-23 sides, but can still represent Ireland if he’d like. He left Apollon Limassol on loan last year, but hasn’t played for loan club Royal Mouscron-Péruwelz or his permanent club.

Let’s hope this is a step in the right direction — or at least out of the wilderness — for the promising and versatile O’Neill.