SPORTS

Mytilineos sticks to Iraklis

Monday’s 2-0 home defeat against AEK has generated some concern at Thessaloniki club Iraklis, which has slipped from top spot to fifth place within two weeks after two successive losses. Speaking on state radio ERA-Sport yesterday, the club’s president, Evangelos Mytilineos, a powerful entrepreneur, assured that he was determined to stand by Iraklis during hard times and offer full support for success which he has yet to experience at the team’s helm. «I will not abandon Iraklis when the club’s going through a difficult phase, as it is now,» said Mytilineos, the chairman and CEO of the listed metals and mining holding company Mytilineos Holdings. He has invested substantial amounts in recent years to bring success back to the Thessaloniki club. During the radio interview, however, Mytilineos admitted that, contrary to popular opinion in and around the club, he would not sign AEK’s star striker Vassilis Tsartas, whose career at the Athens club seems doomed to end. The player recently distanced himself from the club after it made clear that it was not in a position to honor his contract. AEK’s administration responded to Tsartas’s walkout by disrupting his contract for a six-month period. «For its standards, the team is on a huge budget and this can’t be supported indefinitely,» Mytilineos said. «How do I justify bringing Tsartas to the team, if we can assume that everything is in good shape, both in terms of administration and personnel? What’s left? The fans. They have to push the team forward. Attitudes like ‘Get (Real Madrid star forward) Raul if you want us to start attending matches’ do not hold water.» Early last year Mytilineos had, daringly, proposed a union of Thessaloniki’s three major clubs, for a new soccer powerhouse in the country’s north, as a means of combating what he regards as favorable treatment for Athens-based clubs by league authorities. During the radio interview, Mytilineos said these thoughts still occupied his mind, while also noting that he had become «disappointed by those involved in soccer» and even more disappointed by the outlook of Thessaloniki’s clubs. Mytilineos reminded that a series of generally well-received proposals, which were prepared by Iraklis in association with Aris, had been sent to the sports minister at the time, Giorgos Floridis, and other leading sports officials, but PAOK walked out on the plan at the very last moment. «If the three of us had pressured for the realization of those proposals, we would have made a winning move,» Mytilineos said. «The league is not possible without Thessaloniki. And it is not possible for Thessaloniki clubs to play in a competition that is not conducted fairly,» he added. Returning to Monday’s loss against AEK, Mytilineos said Iraklis’s situation was not as bleak as it is being made out to be. «Nothing’s been lost as a result of the defeat against AEK,» Mytilineos said. «The fact that AEK has joined us in the standings and has begun talking about making it to (next season’s) Champions League means that we have the right to hope likewise.»