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PAOK pulls out of Greek Cup after semifinal no-show

Olympiakos turned up for the semifinal, but PAOK did not.

TAGS: Soccer

PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis pulled his team out of the Greek Cup on Wednesday after it failed to appear for its semi-final, second leg against Olympiakos Piraeus because his conditions had not been met.

The game was due to take place behind closed doors after special security measures were put in place by the authorities for the rest of a competition that had been suspended following crowd violence that saw the first leg abandoned on March 3.

The 57-year-old Russian-born Greek businessman Savvidis warned in March that he would not bring his team to Athens for the match unless a foreign referee was appointed and Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) president Giorgos Girtzikis resigned.

The game was due to kick off at 5 p.m., but Olympiakos, who was awarded a 3-0 win in the first leg, has now been given another 3-0 victory and will meet AEK Athens in the May 7 final at the Olympic Stadium.

"PAOK FC has decided not to play today at the Georgios Karaiskaki stadium and, believe me, this decision was not easy," Savvidis said in a statement.

"Our declaration to not participate further in the competition following the unprecedented lawlessness at our Toumba stadium two months ago began an irreversible process for the cleansing of Greek soccer, and I'm glad PAOK is playing a leading role in this movement," Savvidis said.

While a FIFA mission to Athens, including talks with the EPO, helped persuade Deputy Minister for Sport Stavros Kontonis to reverse his initial decision to cancel the cup competition, the measures Savvidis demanded were not implemented.

PAOK risk heavy disciplinary action by the EPO which could see the club deducted three points in the Greek championship next season and fined heavily according to regulations. However, Savvidis said he was prepared to make sacrifices if it meant a cleaner, healthier Greek soccer.

"Greek soccer is experiencing a deep crisis – healthy and fair forces are fighting against a well-organized and corrupt system," he said, “...we must unite our efforts and show the need to protect the value of sports in this country because justice and dignity are above the interests of any particular club. In this struggle sometimes there will be losses, and PAOK is ready to sacrifice. I believe that in the end, Greek soccer will come out of this process as the winner."

[Reuters]

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