ATHENS – Greece’s brawl-filled, hooligan-overrun professional leagues were suspended Feb. 25 because of ongoing violence – including team Presidents attacking each other – marring the sport already tainted by match-fixing and attacks on referees.
Deputy Minister for Sport Stavros Kontonis asked for the league to stop play – it had been suspended earlier this year after a referee was savagely beaten in front of his home.
He called on the league officials – who are brawling and accusing each other of instigating violence – to stop it although similar appeals have always fallen on deaf ears with so much trouble and fans attacking each other that games are often played either in empty stadia or with the a visiting club’s supporters being barred from attending.’
Unlike American sports where fans sit where they want, they have to be segregated in Greece to keep them from attacking each other and earlier this season a fan in Crete was beaten to death. But the lucrative games are still allowed to go on.
Kontonis got the approval of Radical Left SYRIZA leader, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, to halt the sport indefinitely in the wake of police battling Panathinaikos fans in that team’s 2-1 win over arch-enemy Olympiakos on Feb. 22, followed by an altercation between the team Presidents in a a Super League meeting on Feb. 24.
There was also a brawl in a Larissa vs. Olympiakos Volou game that critics said is out of control and overrun with violence, scandal and fixed games.
Kontonis on Feb. 25 held a meeting with representatives of the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO), the Super League and the Football League and told them of the decision to suspend all games until the violence ends, although it never has.
There have already been two weekends without soccer action this season, the first due to the killing of a fan in a third division game and the second owing to the attack on a referee official that had him seriously injured.
Police had to use tear gas and Panathinaikos fans invaded the pitch during a game against Olympiakos – whose fans were barred from attending – and the Presidents of the two teams battled in a meeting,
There was a brawl at the Feb. 24 Super League board meeting, which was halted when Panathinaikos Vice President Vassilis Constantinou was allegedly struck by a security guard during an argument between the Olympiakos and Panathinaikos Chairmen.
“There is no reason to hide that an incident happened and that is why I interrupted the meeting,» said Super League President Giorgos Borovilos. “I will not say much and I don’t want to take sides.”
Borovilos continued: “What happened takes us back. We have many problems to solve in Greek soccer, but not with such actions.”
There is plenty of bad blood between Panathinaikos President Yiannis Alafouzos and Olympiakos President Vangelis Marinakis who have swapped allegations that each instigated violence on and off the field.
Alafouzos said that, “We were assaulted. Mr. Marinakis threw a glass of water at me and then his bodyguard threw a punch at Mr. Constantinou. I cannot believe that a board of the Super League had such violence,” Alafouzos said.
The incident came after both Alafouzos and Marinakis swore at each other, continuing the war of words between the two clubs two days after the game won by Panathinaikos in an violence-marred match in Athens 2-1.
Olympiakos did not issue a statement about the incident.
Before the game between teams whose fans literally hate each other, Marinakis was bombared with flares, firecrackers and other objects fans bring to games, but wasn’t hit.
Just before the start of the second half, a flare hurled by a spectator hit Olympiakos’s Swiss midfielder Pajtim Kasami in the shoulder but the game continued after a brief delay although it was out of control.
At one point a chair was thrown at Olympiakos’ Portuguese coach Vitor Pereira, narrowly missing him. A group of some 50 Panathinaikos fans then ran onto the pitch to chase him away after he gestured at them.
The supporters only returned to their seats once riot police appeared using tear gas to restore order. Two people were slightly injured during the scuffles which lasted five minutes, media reports said, but the game went on.