Polish referee invited to officiate in Greece is replaced after tussle with Greeks

Polish referee invited to officiate in Greece is replaced after tussle with Greeks

As if Greek soccer did not have enough problems of its own, it suffered on Sunday an imported scandal, as a Polish referee hired to officiate a Super League game was involved in a tussle with Greek passengers, after allegedly getting drunk during his flight to Athens, although he claims he was sober and was attacked himself.

Pawel Raczkowski was invited to officiate the Super League playoffs match between AEK and Aris and flew to Athens with his assistants on Saturday for the Sunday afternoon kickoff.

Reports in the Greek media suggested that Raczkowski and his assistants had one drink too many during the flight, made derogatory comments about the state of Greek soccer and had a serious argument with Greek passengers. This was allegedly followed by a second incident at the baggage reclaim facilities of the Athens airport, that led to the intervention of the police.

The English head of the Greek Refereeing Committee (KED) of the federation, Steve Bennett rushed to replace the Polish referees with a Greek team of referees for the AEK vs Aris game. This drew the ire of Olympiakos that spoke of a staged incident so as to appoint Greek referees in the game.

The Polish soccer federation (PZPN) reacted by saying it cannot take for granted that the Polish referees are guilty of what they have been accused of. It insisted that it stands by the version of Raczkowski, which was that he was provoked by a Greek passenger.

Speaking on Polish media, Raczkowski claimed a Greek passenger, who claimed to be a Panathinaikos fan and was allegedly drunk himself, spat at and struck the Polish referee after landing in Athens. He also said the Greek man threatened to speak to the Greek press and “destroy” the Polish referees.

PZPN said there is no proof the Polish referees were under the influence of alcohol, and that the head of the Greek refereeing committee did not replace Raczkowski due to the incidents themselves but because of the furor in the Greek media.

Deputy Sports Minister Lefteris Avgenakis said in a statement that the independent operation of the Central Refereeing Committee of the federation should not be interpreted as operation with impunity, and the case of the Polish referees requires convincing explanation to fans as well as to international federations.

AEK spokesman Giannis Karalis, a sports journalist, attacked Avgenakis without naming him, saying that his interventions appear as if he is on someone’s payroll and warned that AEK fans are voters too who can vote against him in the upcoming general election. Avgenakis had not mentioned AEK in his statement.

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