Soccer louts universally condemned

Two days ahead of another potentially explosive soccer match, which pits Greece against Turkey in Athens, the government and opposition parties joined yesterday in denouncing the violence that followed the national squad’s defeat by Albania on Saturday. One Albanian national was stabbed to death by a Greek on Zakynthos and dozens more were injured in clashes that followed the Tirana match, in which the reigning European champions lost 2-1 before a vociferously partisan home crowd. A 22-year-old suspect, Panayiotis Kladis, was arrested for the murder. Albania’s Foreign Ministry yesterday condemned the violence, in which, according to the Athens News Agency, it said the Greek police force was involved. Police in Athens allegedly did little to protect Albanians celebrating their team’s victory in the World Cup qualifier from Greek hooligans, many belonging to the Chryssi Avgi neo-Nazi group, who also destroyed cars with Albanian numberplates. The Public Order Ministry is understood to be investigating these claims. Some government officials linked the violence with «provocations» by Albanian fans in Greece as well as in the Tirana stadium, and Athens avoided condemning anti-Albanian remarks by the conservative prefect of Thessaloniki, Panayiotis Psomiadis. On Sunday, Psomiadis said Albania should apologize for local fans booing the Greek national anthem before the game. «Irrespective of whether the Albanian immigrants were provocative or not, they also have the right to celebrate,» Deputy Culture Minister for Sports Giorgos Orfanos said. «Instead of receiving thanks from Albanian immigrants for all their new country has offered them… Greeks are insulted, reviled and humiliated in their own country,» he said. Invited to comment, acting government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the government «does not adopt extreme positions.» The PASOK main opposition party said the ruling conservatives should take a clear stance against «messages of bigotry» from its own officials. Tomorrow, Greece plays Turkey at the Karaiskaki Stadium in its second qualifier for the 2006 World Cup.

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