SPORTS

Ugly side of Greek soccer overshadows healthy one

The first genuine giant-killing of this season’s Greek Cup by third-division Fostiras over Super League’s Panionios was overshadowed on Wednesday by ugly scenes at Patra, in the game between Panachaiki and Olympiakos, and by the infighting within Panathinaikos that grew more serious after the team’s qualification over Proodeftiki.

The day served to remind fans that the healthy side of the game in Greece will most of the times get pushed aside by its ugly one.

One police officer was seriously wounded by a knife and another suffered an eye injury in clashes between Panachaiki fans and the police before the game at Patra, that was abandoned two minutes before the end with the score at 1-1 due to object-throwing.

Olympiakos qualified to the next round, having also won the first leg 2-0 in this third-round tie, but the match will be remembered for the particularly poor refereeing at the hosts’ expense and the violent scenes between the two sets of fans on the very turf of the stadium that forced the temporary stopping of the game and then its abandonment, when the assistant referee was showered with objects from the home fans.

Goals by Dimitris Gourtsas for Panachaiki and Yiannis Fetfatzidis for Olympiakos proved irrelevant, as Panachaiki is losing the game with a 3-0 score as it will be held responsible for its abandonment. The second-division club will also have a ban on its stadium and points deducted from the league, according to the regulations.

Panathinaikos, featuring several players from its youth team, came from 1-0 down to beat Proodeftiki away 2-1, and advance with a 5-1 score on aggregate.

Again, the goals by Antonis Petropoulos and Charis Mavrias will not really be remembered from this game for the Greens, as the statements by coach Juan Ramon Rocha had more significance. The Argentine defended the players who have been targeted by the Panathinaikos executives for the league defeat at Veria on Sunday and were told to find a new club, and he even said that «when in battle you should prepare to take some losses, and one such loss could be myself.”

His statements have brought forward Rocha’s meeting with the president of the club from Friday to Thursday, although a telephone call between the two men late on Wednesday is said to have defused some of the tension.

Press reports have said since Tuesday that the board has decided to ditch such players as Greek internationals Loukas Vyntra, Nikos Spyropoulos, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Petropoulos, as well as Jean-Alain Boumsong, Bruno Fornaroli and Sebastian Leto. The reports have created major unrest within the Greens’ camp.

Fostiras players have nothing of the sort to worry about, though. The side that was promoted only last summer to the professional divisions, by emerging from the fourth division, managed to eliminate Panionios thanks to a 78th-minute goal by veteran Ilias Kambas.

The player, who has now become the toast of the western Athens district of Tavros, scored the precious away goal on Wednesday and along with his winner in the first leg saw Fostiras see off its high-flying opponent.

Fostiras had won 1-0 in the first leg and conceded twice at Nea Smyrni before Kambas struck. The veteran striker got sent off for taking his shirt off, which cost him a second yellow card, but Fostiras managed to lose only 2-1 in the end and remind its fans of the 1970s when the club had got the nickname “Giant Killer.”

There was also one more match in the Cup on Wednesday, in which Panthrakikos drew 1-1 at second-tier Niki Volou and advanced to the last 16 with a 3-1 aggregate score.