Lianis says joint soccer bid iffy

UEFA President Lennart Johansson has denied hinting that Russia and a joint bid from Turkey and Greece are unlikely to win the 2008 European soccer championship, UEFA official Senes Erzik said yesterday. But in Athens, Sports Minister Giorgos Lianis acknowledged that crowd trouble during the UEFA Cup match between Panathinaikos and Fenerbahce in Istanbul augured ill for the neighbors’ bid. «I want this joint hosting, which I think is a good thing for sports and for bilateral relations,» he told journalists yesterday. «But I am no longer so optimistic. Had it not been for the Fenerbahce-Panathinaikos match, I would have no reservations.» The head of European soccer’s organizing body was quoted by Swiss newspaper La Dimanche as citing the Moscow theater siege and the Istanbul clashes as reasons why UEFA might look unfavorably on the two bids. Erzik, a former Turkish federation chief, said he had spoken to Johansson about the statement yesterday. «His reply was exactly what I expected. He said ‘I made no such statement,’» Erzik said. (Combined reports)

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