Government steps into soccer war

Sports authorities and politicians of all stripes yesterday unanimously condemned the assault on referee Makis Efthymiadis by Panathinaikos officials and fans, following Sunday’s match against archrival Olympiakos and lamented the state of Greek soccer. While the assault continues to be the subject of a judicial and police investigation, the Athens soccer club faces heavy sanctions. Not only did television and still cameras capture the assault, which left Efthymiadis bloodied and unable to make it to the locker room unassisted, Efthymiadis himself spared no detail of the assault in his match report. An Athens prosecutor is also investigating whether the police failed to protect Efthymiadis; an internal police investigation is also underway. «The State demands that the full weight of the law be applied to all concerned,» said Sports Minister Yiannis Kourakis after a meeting with officials of the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO), the Association of Professional Football Clubs (EPAE) and the Central Refereeing Commission. Kourakis also castigated Panathinaikos President Angelos Philippidis, who demanded intervention from Prime Minister Costas Simitis to clean up the sport. «The president of such a great and historic team ought to be more modest, more serious and more responsible,» said Kourakis. Philippidis, who charged into the field following the game, swearing at Efthymiadis and shoving him, also played a major part in charging the atmosphere before the game, demanding that Olympiakos fans not be given tickets. After the game, he admitted that the penalty which Efthymiadis gave Olympiakos in injury time was a correct decision. Nikolaos Spanos, 28, a cafeteria owner, was the only one of Efthymiadis’s attackers arrested so far. He was charged yesterday with grievous bodily harm and assault. Still at large are Markarian’s assistant and interpreter, Gabriel Molnar, and Christos Karvounidis, a physiotherapist with Panathinaikos. Sports authorities will decide on sanctions against Panathinaikos – which could include suspension from domestic and international competition – next Wednesday, the date of Panathinaikos’s first-leg match against Barcelona for the Champions League quarterfinals. Any appeal procedure may take up an additional 10 days.

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