AEK strongman fights back

Under attack from the government, soccer authorities and his players, AEK Athens’s flamboyant strongman yesterday defended himself against claims he threatened his star player during a nocturnal Tuesday house raid, and offered to «forgive» the estranged international striker provided he stayed with the team. «There was no altercation,» Chrysostomos «Makis» Psomiadis said of his alleged visit, in the company of eight bodyguards, to the Filothei home Demis Nikolaidis shares with his girlfriend, Greek pop diva Despina Vandi. «I left after shaking hands with him.» Nikolaidis, 29, created an uproar on Wednesday by claiming Psomiadis threatened to have his legs broken and kill his career during a doorstep brawl after the two-meter-tall (six-foot-seven) former nightclub owner – whose current business interests include a racehorse farm – called by to check he was not out partying. AEK, like all Greek clubs, insists that its players do not compromise their fitness by pursuing a strenuous nightlife. The striker has refused to play for AEK while Psomiadis, who, due to criminal convictions cannot hold any official club title, remains in charge. He has also sued Psomiadis. «I appeal to the AEK fan in Demis to play on Sunday, and will hold nothing against him,» Psomiadis said, adding that Nikolaidis had been partying until dawn last Sunday. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas said the government «is determined to finally put the matter in order. People outside the framework of the law and involved in a series of criminal acts… cannot represent soccer clubs.» On Monday, the State Auditing Council will launch an investigation into Psomiadis’s legal status with AEK, on instructions from Sports Minister Giorgos Lianis, who yesterday called Psomiadis «scum.»

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