Derby scars will take a long time to heal

The scars from the derby of February 19 between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos will take a long time to heal, as the fallout from the 2-1 victory of the Reds is growing to unpredictable proportions.

Statements made by both sides that incite hatred, and the incidents during and after the game, will likely be referred to in the future as a pivotal point, and not just for this soccer championship.

The fan action that followed the derby offers an insight into what may happen in the next few weeks or years: Police made 17 arrests, but a few hours after the match an Olympiakos fan was stabbed on his way home at the Monastiraki metro station. In the early hours of Sunday one of the assistant referees of the match suffered an attack by Panathinaikos fans upon his return to his native Corfu. Hundreds of Panathinaikos fans were reported to have marched to the broadcasting center of ERT, the state television station that aired the game and was seen as having favored Olympiakos. The rally was to coincide for the highlights show on NET (“Athlitiki Kyriaki”).

Interestingly, some 500 fans gave the Panathinaikos squad when it returned to its training camp a winners’ welcome after the game.

Official Panathinaikos had a more moderate reaction, but is planning strong measures. Its acting president, Dimitris Gontikas, called for Olympiakos owner Vangelis Marinakis to resign as president of the Super League.

More importantly for the future of Panathinaikos, though, the club has called an extraordinary board meeting for February 22 in which it will assess the situation — a great opportunity for Panathinaikos shareholders to heal previous wounds and put their differences behind them. Already all major shareholders have expressed their desire to take part and unite against the «common enemy.”

Rumors about Panathinaikos players quitting the national team were refuted. There were some healthy reactions, though, first from Olympiakos manager Ernesto Valverde and then from the President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias.

Valverde expressed his disappointment at what happened after the game, saying that it does not matter whether it is Olympiakos fans or other fans storming the pitch, as there is no room for tolerance for this kind of behavior.

Papoulias, meanwhile, speaking in Ioannina in northern Greece on February 20, expressed his condemnation of any violent act related to sports.

Although the atmosphere before the game had been rather quiet, there had been some signs that trouble was brewing ahead of the match.

A newspaper had revealed midweek that Olympiakos fans had sneaked in 4,000 flares and bangers ahead of the derby, but the club refuted the claim, only to be left red-faced as the sheer number of flares lit before and during the game warrant an investigation by the league.

Kickoff was actually delayed by a few minutes because of the smoke from the numerous flares lit, while some were even thrown near Panathinaikos players such as goalkeeper Tzorvas.

It remains to be seen how sports authorities (the league, the federation and the prosecutor) will react to the events during and after the derby.

In the weekend’s other Super League games, AEK failed to beat Panionios drawing 1-1 at home as Costas Mitroglou canceled out Nikos Liberopoulos’s goal, Kerkyra beat Asteras 2-0 at Tripolis and all other games ended in draws: Kavala 0 Panserraikos 0, Atromitos 0 Aris 0, Xanthi 1 Larissa 1 and Olympiakos Volou 1 Iraklis 1.

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