Attack on referee official opens Pandora’s box in soccer

The mafia-like attack on the Alternate President of the Central Refereeing Committee (KED), Christoforos Zografos on Thursday night, and everything that followed with the knee-jerk reaction by the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) to decide the suspension of all league action indefinitely, along with the accusations by Olympiakos president Vangelis Marinakis and by Dimitris Melissanidis, highlight and confirm the extent of rot in Greek soccer.

Everything that was said on Friday points clearly to the clash of strong and well-organized interests, that is taking place on the field of soccer and tends to spiral out of control.

AEK Athens strongman Melissanidis responded to the accusations by Marinakis – that Melissanidis demanded Zografos and EPO head Giorgos Sarris to appoint specific referees to the second-division match between Panachaiki and AEK – saying that “the people who have been summoned for some time now to answer to Justice and the prosecutors in the context of the investigation into the existence of a criminal organization in soccer, those who are accused of blackmailing, bribing, beatings and explosions, and who have ignored any value of healthy competition by undermining soccer in our country, have the cheek to speak about morality, values and progress.”

Panathinaikos, which plays a leading role in the highlighting of corruption instances in soccer, has expressed its position saying: “We unequivocally condemn [Thursday’s] deplorable occurrence, which people under investigation by Justice cannot hijack. We are blaming the government for its criminal tolerance of the growing rot in soccer all these years. This tolerance, as we have already stated, now entails guilt. We are also calling on Justice to accelerate its work and avert the upcoming statute of limitations for felonies.”

For its part, the federation rushed hastily to make that spectacular decision for the indefinite suspension of all leagues, following its typical tactics of burying its collective head in the sand. It has failed to order an investigation to determine the actual facts after one of its members was attacked due to his competences.

The federation has also failed to refute what Marinakis claimed at the board meeting of the Super League, i.e. that Sarris and Zografos have been at the receiving end of pressures and threats intended to have specific referees appointed. On the contrary, Sarris unashamedly put the blame for the attack on Zografos on the press!

Yet what is most important is that the EPO president and its administration have incited the intervention of Justice and have already been summoned to testify as suspects about the case concerning the existence of a criminal organization in soccer. The EPO management is also facing criminal charges on the “healthcare card”, according to Article 391 of the Penal Code, and its members have been summoned as suspects for the case of the fake social security and tax clearance documents.

Against all these phenomena of complete rot and corruption, the government has chosen to play the role of the passive viewer, showing a characteristic indifference. Furthermore, part of the Justice system is clearly stalling on cases of criminal character, such as the scandal of match-fixing, running the risk of the statute of limitations.

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