SPORTS

Inquiry into beating of AEK officials by Olympiakos fans

Responding to crowd violence in the VIP stand during Sunday’s clash between Athens rivals Olympiakos and AEK, a public prosecutor yesterday launched an inquiry. During the game, which AEK won 2-1 away, the visiting side’s president, Yiannis Granitsas, and a former president, Stratos Gidopoulos, were attacked and beaten by a bunch of Olympiakos fans, some of whom are believed to be bodyguards of the team’s president, Socrates Kokkalis, a telecommunications mogul. Kokkalis did not attend the game. Club officials say he was abroad on a business trip. High court prosecutor Sotiris Bagias will study video evidence from the match. The incident came during the first weekend of matches after the introduction of video cameras to monitor hooliganism. Moreover, the Olympiakos club could face disciplinary action from the association of professional Greek soccer clubs, EPAE, for defamation of the sport. If so, the defending champion – currently placed second in the Greek first division, and three points behind front runner Panathinaikos – faces the possibility of playing between two and five home games before empty stands as punishment. Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Lianis, who is in charge of sports, has asked for strict implementation of the law. No doubt, he was hinting at softer treatment of perpetrators in the past. «This is the last straw, things have gone far enough,» Lianis declared. «The solution can’t be to prohibit officials from away teams from watching matches in the VIP area. Home team presidents should extend personal invitations and protect the visitor like their very own eyes,» he added. Until late yesterday, three days after the game, the AEK club had maintained a restrained position. It has not officially condemned the violence. The assault, a vicious one, has been clearly captured on camera. According to sources, Granitsas, responding to questions regarding the nature of his reaction immediately after the incident occurred, declared that he would file legal charges against all parties involved, and also report the incident to EPAE. But, possibly in an effort to avoid marring administrative ties between the two clubs, Granitsas has fallen short of these promises. For third-placed AEK, the important away win, which narrows the gap between it and Olympiakos to four points, could not have come at a better time for the club – considering recent sour times. Coach Dusan Bajevic, who received a death threat in the form of a bullet left on his front door, probably by mindless fans, has said he would not hesitate to kill anybody and be punished accordingly if anything ever happened to any of his family members. A small portion of fans have not forgiven Bajevic for switching to Olympiakos several years ago ahead of his current tenure with AEK. But the win against Olympiakos has no doubt bolstered the support behind him. The victory upgrades AEK’s objective for the season, this being to capture at least the second place, which would grant the club a berth in next season’s Champions League.