SPORTS

Embarrassing end to Greek Cup

t began as a lively affair inside a packed basketball stadium of excited – or overexcited and irresponsible – fans but by the evening’s end, the Greek Cup final had degenerated into a miserable embarrassment for the sport. Aris overcame Olympiakos 73-70 to win the cup title late Sunday night, but the victorious Thessaloniki team was forced to celebrate before empty stands after fans smoked themselves out of the indoor stadium in Larissa. Play was interrupted for about two hours while police evacuated all supporters as a safety measure after Olympiakos fans lit numerous flares and began tossing them toward rival fans. Olympiakos had led the scoring prior to the incident, but was overtaken following the resumption of play. The heavily delayed match took some four hours to complete. The cup final defeat came as a bitter end to the evening for Olympiakos, a traditional basketball power both domestically and in Europe which is struggling in this season’s league competition. For Aris, the victory added an eighth Greek Cup triumph to the Thessaloniki club’s record, and 21st title overall, which includes three European titles and nine Greek league titles. In the Greek Cup’s minor final for third place, Peristeri defeated Apollon Patras 94-73. Play in the cup final was interrupted 12 minutes before its finale after the game’s referees had previously issued two warnings. Olympiakos fans will, no doubt, feel the greater shame. Their team had found its rhythm and established a seven-point lead (51-44). But the two referees interrupted play when, by that stage of the game, the flare-throwing incidents had intensified into a hazardous situation. The fire came from the part of the stand occupied by Olympiakos fans in response to heavy verbal abuse from Aris fans. By the time all 1,800 fans were evacuated from the stadium and play was resumed, Olympiakos had lost its momentum. Aris crawled its way back into the game during its closing stages. Despite trailing by six points (59-53) during the final quarter, Aris rebounded to take the lead at 62-61 in the 36th minute, and 66-63 two minutes later. Olympiakos regained the lead at 70-69 a minute before the buzzer, but Aris proved the more composed side in the encounter’s dying stages. However, this Greek Cup final will not go down on the record for its play but for shameful incidents and yet another embarrassing chapter in Greek sports.