‘Isolated fans’ caused violence

Athens yesterday played down the violence that marred Thursday’s Istanbul soccer match that was meant to have showcased Greek-Turkish detente ahead of the fractious neighbors’ joint bid to host the 2008 football European Championships. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas expressed his «deep regret» at the incidents, which were mainly caused by Panathinaikos fans attending their team’s away match against Fenerbahce for the European UEFA Cup. «By no means should we identify our two peoples or the majority of the spectators in the football ground with these unacceptable actions by isolated fans of both teams,» he said. Before the match, Panathinaikos fans threw broken seats and plastic bottles at the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey, who had gone on a pitch walk to salute spectators. Yesterday afternoon, some 30 reportedly drunken Panathinaikos fans took part in Istanbul street fights that left one Greek and one Turk slightly injured. Culture Minister Evengelos Venizelos, who also attended the game, complained that fans «don’t understand political events and their crucial importance.»

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