SPORTS

Cup final venue expected today

The country’s soccer federation, amid fears of hooliganism marring this season’s Greek Cup final between archrivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos on May 8, is expected to reach a decision today on which stadium will host the encounter. The initial plan of hosting the cup final at the brand-new 20,000-capacity stadium in Patras, western Greece, where Olympic soccer qualifiers are to be played, now rates as a high-risk option considering the qualification of the perennial rivals for the final. Constructed primarily for Olympic competition, not domestic soccer, where fan violence has run rampant for years, the new Patras stadium is not installed with anti-hooliganism fixtures such as high-level protective fencing and segregated stands – prerequisites in Greek soccer. Also, Greek police fear that violence could break out anywhere along the route to Patras. EPO, the national soccer federation, has sought alternative locations, but the administrations of the finalist clubs have failed to mutually agree. Just days ago, it was rumored that EPO, hoping to ease the tension by transferring the game abroad, contacted Cypriot soccer officials to stage the Greek final on Cyprus. No developments have been announced. In a bid to combat violence in soccer, the previous government’s top sporting official recently implemented a ban on away fans traveling in organized groups for league matches. But, being the Greek Cup final, the upcoming encounter must be played under neutral conditions, meaning that fans from both clubs are entitled to attend. Panathinaikos has rejected staging the game at the Panionios club’s Nea Smyrni stadium in Athens. Instead, it has suggested one of Thessaloniki’s two main soccer stadiums.