Armenians cry foul over defeat

The Greek national soccer team’s crucial 1-0 away victory over Armenia on Saturday was overshadowed by acrimony yesterday as soccer officials in Yerevan claimed Armenian players had been offered cash to lose the Euro-2004 qualifying match. Armenia’s soccer federation has asked European governing body UEFA to investigate the alleged bribery attempt. Federation spokesman Suren Bagdasarian said yesterday that Armenian players had reported several weeks ago that they had received telephone calls from unidentified people offering them money to allow the Greeks to win. Late last week, according to Bagdasarian, the manager of Armenia’s national under-21 team received a call from Ervand Sukiasian, a former national team player now living in Greece, who allegedly claimed that he had been «ordered» by Vassilis Gagatsis, president of the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) to offer money for an Armenian loss. The manager told the head of Armenia’s soccer federation, and made a tape-recorded call to Sukiasian in which the former player allegedly offered $1 million for a Greek win. Bagdasarian said Tom Restall, the UEFA official monitoring Saturday’s match, has agreed to stay in the country to investigate. Restall declined comment and UEFA spokesman Mike Lee in Geneva said he had no information on the report. EPO released a statement yesterday dismissing the Armenian claims as «fanciful and unmitigated lies.» «Nobody and for no reason may play with the name of Greece and its national team,» EPO said. «It appears that Greece’s [successful] course has created problems for many people who did not expect it.» Saturday’s win consolidated Greece’s lead in qualifying Group 6, which includes Spain, the Ukraine and Northern Ireland. (Combined reports)

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