Surveillance cameras to focus on hooligans

With internal strife seemingly far from over at the AEK soccer club, the Greek State has had to intervene in the club’s affairs for the second time within a few weeks. Responding to a death threat in the form of a bullet delivered to the home of the team’s coach, Dusan Bajevic, most likely by mindless disenchanted fans, Sports Minister Giorgos Lianis stepped in yesterday in declaring that the Greek government stood by the Serb-Greek coach. In a post-match news conference last Sunday, Bajevic warned that he would not hesitate to kill «the leader» of these fans and be sentenced to jail should any members of his family be threatened. The incident comes just weeks after AEK’s former strongman Makis Psomiadis and a team of bodyguards visited the home of star player Demis Nikolaidis to warn him to step into line. The player, who had distanced himself from the team demanding Psomiadis’s resignation, was reportedly involved in a heated front-door scuffle with Psomiadis and his bulky aides. Sports Minister Lianis told reporters yesterday that he contacted Bajevic to inquire whether the coach wanted to launch a judicial investigation. Lianis, who added that Bajevic declined the offer, said coordinated stadium camera surveillance of hardcore fans of major soccer clubs would begin this weekend to clamp down on troublesome fans. «As of this Sunday, we’re going to start filming club fans. Our objective is to break up some organized fan groups, but we’re not going to disclose the details of our strategy,» Lianis said. «Every Sunday, criminal activities, which we are obliged to fight against, are carried out at the stadium,» he added. A number of die-hard AEK fans have never forgiven Bajevic for «defecting» to Olympiakos in 1996 after leading the Athens club to four league titles in the early 1990s. Bajevic, who also played for AEK in the late 1970s and early 1980s and greatly contributed toward the club’s winning back-to-back titles then, won three more titles with Olympiakos before his dismissal and coached PAOK for a couple of seasons before returning to AEK this season. Whenever AEK met any of Bajevic’s teams, these fans would erect banners denouncing the «traitor.» Last Sunday, during AEK’s home game with OFI, one banner read «AEK, I love you; traitor, I don’t forget.» The banner was removed by club officials. After the match, and the post-match session with reporters where Bajevic threatened retaliation, at least 10 AEK fans attacked team trainer Dimitris Bouroutzikas, Bajevic’s long-time collaborator, kicked his car and punched him. Bouroutzikas escaped without more serious injury. During his session with reporters, Lianis also offered an update on prospective new soccer stadiums. Olympiakos has agreed to refurbish the Karaiskaki Stadium in Neo Faliron in exchange for a long-term lease. Panathinaikos has also expressed interest in demolishing and rebuilding its Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium in downtown Athens. Responding to Olympiakos’s deal with the government, Panathinaikos’s administration has asked for state support, citing fair business practices. AEK, too, has revealed plans for a new stadium. «Regarding Olympiakos, the story has ended favorably and, on Wednesday, [today] we will agree to the final project details. Regarding AEK, the State will offer 700 million drachmas (2.1 million euros) during the first phase,» said Lianis, who added that the State’s total financial support for the club would reach 4.4 million euros. «Regarding Panathinaikos, initial talks have been held with officials. A meeting will be held next week with the Environment and Public Works Ministry to discuss any project difficulties,» he added.

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