SPORTS

AEK responds to imploding fans

News on Greek soccer in recent days has been dominated by state measures taken to curb persisting fan violence, which has proven detrimental to the sport, as underscored by poor attendance figures. Controversial new regulations forbidding organized fan clubs from attending away games were introduced last weekend to avert clashes between rival fans. For one club, AEK, however, security has developed into a domestic issue. It has prompted the team’s administration to take action against its own imploding fans. During last Sunday’s home 2-2 draw against Aegaleo, a group of displeased AEK supporters invaded their club’s VIP stand and ousted its occupants in order to get closer to coach Dusan Bajevic and hurl verbal abuse at him. A small group of fans have yet to forgive Bajevic for abandoning the team in 1996, after a lengthy and successful career, both as player and coach, before his eventual return two seasons ago. Insults at games have included calling Bajevic a «traitor.» Following his first tenure at AEK, Bajevic added several more league titles with Olympiakos and a Greek Cup title with PAOK, before returning. Responding to last weekend’s incident, the most outrageous by AEK fans to date, the club said that, from now on, it would restrict ticket availability to holders of new membership cards which will require submitting personal details. As of tomorrow, interested fans will be able to acquire their membership cards over the Internet (www.aekfc.gr), or at the club’s downtown headquarters. Holders of season tickets remain unaffected. Fans such as the aforementioned culprits, of course, may still end up getting their hands on these new membership cards, but, having provided their personal details, will be under closer surveillance. In a club announcement following Sunday’s invasion of the VIP stand, the AEK club said police forces ignored advice offered by team officials highlighting the ground’s more sensitive security spots. Had the advice been taken, the VIP invasion would have been avoided, the announcement implied. It called on Greek police authorities and the State to work in closer coordination with clubs on security issues. AEK, a pre-season favorite for this year’s league title, has so far failed to live up to expectations. Just over the season’s halfway mark, AEK is placed fifth in the 16-team standings, nine points behind front runner Olympiakos. AEK also fared dismally in the Champions League, and was ousted following the first round of group play with one point from six games. In other news at the troubled club, midfielder Vassilis Lakis, who has been at odds with AEK over outstanding fees, appears set to end his ties with the club. Talks yesterday between the player’s manager and a leading club authority collapsed. Lakis’s manager, Spyros Siougaris, said he rejected a club offer for a 300,000-euro payment and an end to the player’s contract. Legal action was taken following the talks, Siougaris said. Another key player, midfielder Vassilis Tsiartas, who has also been at odds with AEK over unpaid fees, agreed yesterday to accept guarantees of a settlement within a specific time period.