Officials shame soccer

Soccer club Panathinaikos has found itself pitted against all sports authorities who have strongly denounced the behavior of club officials after the end of Sunday’s game with Olympiakos. Referee Panayiotis Efthymiadis was set upon and hit several times by Panathinaikos officials. The president of the club, Angelos Philippidis, and coach Sergio Markarian gave the go-ahead for the near-lynching of Efthymiadis by running to him after the end of the match, shoving and calling him names. Having ignited the fire, Philippidis and Markarian left him to fans and other club employees, who beat up the referee, leaving him covered in blood and barely able to walk to the locker room. He was able to leave the Leoforos Alexandras stadium, at 2 a.m., more than four hours after the match had ended, and was briefly hospitalized. Yesterday, police announced that 28-year-old Nicholas Spanos had been arrested for attacking fthymiadis and that it was searching for Christos Karvounidis, 45, a physiotherapist with Panathinaikos and Gabriel Molnar, Markarian’s interpreter. Efthymiadis had awarded Olympiakos a penalty in the fourth minute of injury time, which was converted by Predrag Djordjevic, making the final score 1-1. The result has made it very difficult for Panathinaikos to catch up with leaders AEK and Olympiakos – whom it trails by four and three points, respectively – in the remaining five rounds of play for Division I. Normally, Panathinaikos would face crippling sanctions. Article 30 of the Greek Football Association (EPO) rules makes explicit reference to cases of attacks on referees by club officials and calls for individual sanctions as well as the expulsion of the team itself from all domestic and European competitions for a period of 15 days to two months. In addition to the Greek championship, Panathinaikos is competing in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. No one has dared impose heavy penalties on major soccer clubs before; however, the scale of the attack is unprecedented and it is difficult to see Panathinaikos getting off lightly, especially since both Efthymiadis and the match observer, Vangelis Balokas, have described the incidents in detail in their reports. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, his deputy, Sports Minister Yiannis Kourakis and other officials strongly condemned the violence. Venizelos called for the proper enforcement of the law and Kourakis added: «I call on the relevant bodies to intervene immediately… hooliganism shall not pass,» said. The clubs concerned, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, exchanged statements full of invective. Philippidis, while conceding that Efthymiadis’s decision to award the penalty was correct, launched a bizarre tirade against Olympiakos President Socrates Kokkalis and the government for allowing domestic soccer competitions to be «tarnished.» Olympiakos replied by calling Philippidis a mere employee of majority owner, businessman Vardis Vardinoyiannis. In the tense game between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, goal chances were scarce in the first half, with both teams playing at midfield.

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