NEWS

AEK dispute erupts onto front pages

Demis Nikolaidis, the national team’s star striker, filed a complaint against AEK boss Makis Psomiadis yesterday and appealed to the national soccer federation to release him from his contract with the Athens team. A long-simmering clash between Nikolaidis and the cigar-chomping, two-meter-tall (six-foot-seven) nightclub owner who runs AEK burst into the open in the early hours Wednesday after Psomiadis and several bodyguards went to the player’s house to check if he was there. The raid was ostensibly because team management had demanded that players stay at home rather than party late into the night, a rule Nikolaidis and others had not agreed to. According to Nikolaidis, Psomiadis swore at and threatened him. Nikolaidis’s girlfriend, pop diva Despina Vandi, was present. The incident may finally lead to Psomiadis’s being distanced from the team. Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Lianis, who is in charge of sports, was to call on the sports judge to enforce a law removing from the administration of sports teams anyone with a criminal record. Psomiadis was last year sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud and forgery and was freed while awaiting his appeal because he ostensibly suffers from tuberculosis. Nikolaidis filed a complaint against Psomiadis at Athens police headquarters yesterday. In comments to reporters, he said that he would no longer play for AEK if Psomiadis remained connected with the team. «The problem is not that Psomiadis came to my house and threatened me. The problem is that Greek soccer allows Psomiadis, his thugs and his methods to represent it. Psomiadis is destroying my career, the careers of my fellow players, destroying the team and with it the dreams of its fans. He intrudes on my private life, forcing me to use bodyguards, something that I cannot reconcile myself with. As a player and as a Greek citizen, I cannot accept any connection with Makis Psomiadis,» he said. AEK players expressed support for Nikolaidis, adding, «however, both we players and our coach have to protect AEK’s history.» Management summoned Nikolaidis to explain his absence from practice.