Spanish referee to take charge of Greek cup final

Spanish referee to take charge of Greek cup final

The Greek Football Federation has taken the unusual step of appointing a Spanish referee for Saturday’s Greek Cup final between champions AEK Athens and PAOK, as it looks to rebuild the sport’s shattered image in the country.

A league match between the two teams in March was abandoned after a controversial referee decision that prompted the president of PAOK to charge onto the pitch with a handgun in his belt.

This led to the suspension of the league for more than two weeks and a warning from world soccer’s governing body to reform immediately or risk being banned internationally.

PAOK and its president were subsequently also sanctioned and the team had points deducted, ending their title hopes.

Fans of the two clubs had also clashed violently before and after last year’s cup final, won by PAOK.

The federation announced on Thursday that 44-year-old David Borbalan would take charge of Saturday’s game, with two Spanish assistant referees.

"The referee committee of the Hellenic Football Federation took the exceptional decision to appoint a foreign refereeing team for the Greek Cup final," it said in a statement.

Borbalan has officiated in La Liga games for the past 14 seasons and has been an international referee since 2010.

Referees in Greece have regularly been targets of attacks following domestic matches.

Widespread allegations of corruption have also triggered several investigations by Athens prosecutors in recent years.

FIFA has repeatedly warned Greece to clean up soccer or risk a possible international ban and will discuss the matter next month before taking a final decision. [Reuters]

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