Fans go on a rampage during a water polo league game

ust a day after the government prided itself on having significantly reduced soccer violence, an unprecedented series of incidents at a water polo match yesterday demonstrated that hooliganism is alive and well and that the presence of visiting supporters is not required for matters to escalate out of control. Less than halfway into the match, namely 1 minute, 31 seconds before halftime, and with the score tied 3-3, there was a foul on Olympiakos’s player Thomas Schertwitis. Then, Panionios’s captain, Costas Loudis, kicked Schertwitis underwater and the two exchanged blows. Soon, all players joined the fray. Such incidents happen often in a sport where close marking is the norm. What happened next, though, was highly unusual. An Olympiakos fan jumped onto Panionios’s bench and pushed coach Alekos Vassos into the pool. Many more fans followed, hitting Panionios’s players on the bench and then throwing into the pool all kinds of objects: tables, chairs, blocks of wood, chips of marble, advertisement banners, shoes, slippers, socks, bottles, cups, trash cans, buckets, lifebelts, bags, a camera and its tripod. A Panionios player, Zacharias Anastassiadis was hit by a wooden block and had to be moved out of the arena on a stretcher. He was transferred to Piraeus’s Tzaneio hospital. Costas Dimou, an assistant coach of Vouliagmeni, another first-division club, who had been sent to scout the match and was filming it, was set upon by fans who managed to wrench the videocassette from Dimou’s camera, fearing, probably, that they had been filmed. To cap it all, some Olympiakos fans stole their own team’s civilian clothes, stored in bags next to the team bench. Olympiakos officials claimed that the incidents escalated when a flare thrown by a fan at Panionios’s bench was thrown back at the stands by a player. The match, naturally, was abandoned. «This is something totally new to me. Such things do not happen in Germany. It was like cinema. I should have paid to watch it,» said Schertwitis, a member of Germany’s national squad, who added that during the players’ fight, he had been pushed underwater for several seconds and was unable to breath. His panicked fiancee watched from the stands.