By George Georgakopoulos
Panathinaikos’s basketball division was thrown in disarray on Friday as president Dimitris Giannakopoulos said he is departing the club and accused his own uncle, Thanassis, of betrayal, in a dramatic press conference in the aftermath of the arrest of former Panathinaikos forward Mike Batiste for tax debts.
“I have been betrayed by my own blood,” a tearful Giannakopoulos said, alleging that last summer, when he took over the basketball club from his father Pavlos and his uncle Thanassis Giannakopoulos, the latter’s advisors gave him the wrong picture of the six-time European champion’s finances.
The Panathinaikos president, who had arranged in the morning for the settlement of the debt that Batiste had to Greek tax authorities amounting to 200,000 euros, accused Thanassis Giannakopoulos, who administered the club since 2002, and his advisors of owing money to most players and being responsible for the departure of coach Zeljko Obradovic: “He owed him money, that is why he left.”
“When in the summer I asked Thanassis Giannakopoulos and his associates for details of the club’s finances, I was given fake data. Today I have taken things into my own hands and I have seen the real picture.
“I can therefore tell you that Mr Obradovic left because Thanassis Giannakopoulos owed him a lot of money, many months’ salary and I have never spoken of that. There is proof, this is not just some indications, but evidence that I have, and is at anyone’s disposal."
When Obradovic left Panathinaikos in the summer, after 13 years at the club, he spoke of a lack of respect toward him, but did not elaborate.
“I have not got the financial capacity to plug the holes that the Thanassis Giannakopoulos administration has left,” Dimitris stressed, saying that “unfortunately I cannot go on at Panathinaikos.”
“I am 38 years old, I have got the strength to fight, but I cannot tolerate betrayal from my own blood,” said Dimitris Giannakopoulos, adding that he is offering the club for free to anyone interested.
Batiste is understood to be a good friend of the Panathinaikos president, who intended to honor the US forward upon his return to Athens to face Panathinaikos with his new club, Fenerbahce Ulker.
His adventure, getting arrested on Thursday evening upon entering Greece and spending the night in captivity at the police station of the Athens airport, will have forced Giannakopoulos to ask the questions he should have asked when he undertook the club last summer.
Batiste was released late in the morning and joined the Turkish team in its light training in the afternoon.
Reports from the Panathinaikos camp say the Giannakopoulos revelations have dropped like a bombshell among the team’s players.
All this is making the Panathinaikos vs Fenerbahce clash for the Euroleague at 10 p.m. on Friday exceptionally appetizing. The reaction of the fans, most of whom have never taken to Dimitris Giannakopoulos, will also be very interesting to see.