No away fans at soccer derby

There will be no visiting fans during Saturday’s classic derby between longtime soccer rivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, it was decided yesterday. The decision, which required the consent of both teams, was hailed by host Olympiakos but gave rise to complaints from Panathinaikos fan clubs. During a meeting yesterday at Piraeus police headquarters, the police expressed fears they could not contain a possible flareup involving fans of the two teams. By law, Panathinaikos, the visiting team, could lay claim to 5 percent of the tickets, that is a total of 1,675 in the 33,500-seat Karaiskaki Stadium. However, the team’s representative at the meeting, Yiannis Zavradinos, quickly accepted the request not to claim the tickets, provided that Olympiakos committed to doing the same in the second-round clash in Panathinaikos’s home, which has half Karaiskaki’s seat capacity. «It is nice that Panathinaikos agreed with our proposal not to exchange fan visits and, thus, to allow us to stage the match in a calm atmosphere. Olympiakos is called to prove, once again, that it can stage a good match,» said Olympiakos representative Yiannis Moralis. After being informed of the fans’ reactions, Panathinaikos president Argyris Mitsou was apologetic to them. «I agree completely with the fans’ complaints, because if they are excluded from the derbies, which are the quintessence of soccer, this is good neither for soccer nor for our team. However, after the initiative by AEK to prevent visiting Olympiakos fans from attending their match, we, as a club, did not want to be the cause of any trouble. Thus, we (agreed) with a heavy heart,» he said in an interview for Skai radio station. Olympiakos is optimistic about the outcome after its 4-0 away triumph over Ionikos on Sunday, even without its injured Brazilian superstar Rivaldo. Panathinaikos, on the other hand, comes from a frustrating away draw against last-placed Aris. Meanwhile, German second-division side FC Cologne announced yesterday it had signed Greece midfielder Vassilis Tsiartas for the rest of the season. «I’m delighted that Tsiartas has picked us despite a number of other offers he had,» said Cologne President Wolfgang Overath in a statement on the club’s website. The 33-year-old Tsiartas, a member of Greece’s triumphant Euro 2004 squad in Portugal in July, was out of contract after leaving AEK earlier this year over a pay dispute. He has 68 caps for Greece. Despite being unattached to a club, he has remained a part of Greece coach Otto Rehhagel’s plans and was on the bench for its recent World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan.