Police close in on Athens hooligans

Police are hoping to begin making arrests soon after closely monitoring more than 200 people in Athens thought to be closely linked to or actually involved in hooligan activity over the last few years, which has led to one person being killed, dozens injured and numerous sporting events being disrupted. Sources told Kathimerini that officers have been watching members of supporters clubs in Aghios Dimitrios, Ilioupoli, Zografou, Holargos, Maroussi, Kallithea and Peristeri. The clubs being monitored are run by fans of Olympiakos, Panathinaikos and AEK, which are the three biggest soccer teams in Greece. Members of the Panathinaikos supporters’ club in Aghios Dimitrios, for instance, have been involved in clashes with rival Olympiakos and AEK fans and their headquarters were attacked three times in three weeks. The most recent raid was on November 12, when a homemade explosive device was placed outside the entrance. Nobody was injured in that attack. Sources said that members of other clubs under surveillance have been involved in similar incidents and there are suspicions that some of them have links to drug dealing and other criminal activity. In one of the worst incidents this year, one man was arrested and several cars were damaged in a prearranged fight between about 150 Olympiakos and Panathinaikos supporters in a parking lot in Maroussi, northern Athens, in January. This brawl then led to a device containing dynamite being set off outside the Panathinaikos supporters’ club in Maroussi several days later. Last month, Six people were arrested and charges were filed against another two after raids by police on four soccer supporters’ clubs in Athens led to the seizure of a substantial cache of firebombs, flares, batons, knives and an array of other objects that could be used in attacks on other fans or officers.