Police and defiant fan clubs set to clash

Greek police and fan clubs look set to clash over a new set of draconian anti-hooligan measures next weekend including a travel ban on fan clubs and on spectators singing anti-Olympic slogans. Police have announced they will shut out members of fan clubs wishing to attend their teams’ away games as a measure to prevent them from clashing with rival fans of the home side. «The introduction of banners and other objects such as scarves of away teams into the stadium will not be allowed,» a Salonica police statement read. Banners slamming the national anthem or the Olympic Games will also be forbidden. The police measures implement new anti-hooligan legislation passed in December after violence in Greece’s football and basketball stadiums seemed to reach a peak. The 2004 Athens Olympics also became a target during games when fans of Thessaloniki soccer club PAOK repeatedly chanted slogans and put up banners slamming them in rather flowery terms. PAOK fans begrudge the Greek capital because they believe that championships are rigged in favor of its teams. Fan spokesmen have already said they will disobey the travel ban despite risking money fines or even prison terms. «We will go to see the match, and they [police] can come arrest us,» said Takis Tsoukalas, well-known fan club leader of Olympiakos, one of the country’s two biggest clubs, on his private television talk show. Olympiakos play away at smallish rival Akratitos on Sunday. «We cannot bar individual citizens from watching the game. Any fan club member could watch the game if he comes on his own, without his team’s scarf or T-shirt on,» a Salonica police source told AFP. Olympiakos’s and PAOK’s basketball teams play on Sunday in Salonica. The two teams are bitter rivals and its encounters have repeatedly sparked violent incidents. Greece’s cash-starved small teams have also protested the fan club travel ban. Ticket receipts are slumping and the few matches against the country’s handful of fan-rich clubs are an important source of revenue. (AFP)

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