Hitting the roof for nothing

Throughout the previous week local authorities occupied themselves with how they would go about combating violence in sports. The subject was debated in Parliament. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and his deputy, Giorgos Lianis, in charge of the sports portfolio, once again delivered heavy statements. And the opposition blamed the government. Which all made us wonder, again: «Who are they trying to fool?» It is certain that nothing will change unless firm action is taken against sports administrations. And they’re not the only root of the problem. How can change be expected when a sports tribunal hands down a light penalty to the Aris club for the extensive damage by its raging fans during a soccer game against Olympiakos in Thessaloniki two weeks ago – seats were uprooted and tossed, journalists were attacked and TV cameras were broken, which interrupted transmission – or when police take an apathetic stance against thugs while they smash and everything in front them. In a more recent incident, over the weekend, the bashing of an innocent Aegaleo fan – outside his club’s home stadium – by a group of mindless Olympiakos fans simply because the individual happened to be wearing a scarf sporting his team’s blue and white colors, while, again, police stood by and watched, should have, at least, been accompanied by the resignation of their top-ranked official for failure to respond to an emergency situation. It also remains to be seen whether Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis will call for an inquiry. But the thuggish behavior was not restricted to the venue’s exterior, nor to Olympiakos supporters. Inside, fans of the home team Aegaleo – this season’s surprise hit in the Greek league – tossed countless seats into the arena and the smoke of burning plastic seats behind Olympiakos goalie Dimitris Eleftheropoulos kept him company throughout the encounter. Nothing could extinguish their rage or mindless antics. Announcements over the stadium’s PA system proved futile, as did the efforts by Aegaleo players and the team’s coach, Giorgos Hadzaras, to appease fans. And, dear readers, don’t rush to conclude that this eruption of violence was in any way connected to any injustice felt by Aegaleo fans, whose side went down 2-1. Their violent outbreak was not the result of any unfair decision made by the referee, nor because a rival player made any offensive gesture at them. Aegaleo supporters simply hit the roof because police forces escorted the visiting Olympiakos fans to a section in the stands that in the past was exclusively occupied by the home team’s following. And one can’t help but wonder about the referee’s reaction to the surrounding bedlam. Why didn’t he halt the game? It went on as if nothing was happening. And you can be sure – this writer is – that similar acts of barbarism will continue to occur in the future at other stadiums, as no referee is willing, or will dare, to interrupt a game when it’s raining seats or other flying objects. Teams need to be penalized in a far firmer fashion, this being the loss of crucial match points, not playing home games before empty stands, as was the resulting penalty – or reprieve – for the Aris club last week in response to the totally reckless behavior of its fans a fortnight ago. Uncompromising verdicts by the sports tribunal in two or three instances – without club bosses running to ministers for nullification – will make the usual culprits think again.

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