SPORTS

Olympiakos appeals hefty penalty

Responding to last weekend’s stinging penalty imposed on Olympiakos for recent fan violence that prevented a league match against Panionios from taking place, the Piraeus club’s administration yesterday submitted an appeal to the judiciary council of EPO, Greece’s soccer federation. In a verdict announced late last Friday night, EPO’s sports tribunal, appearing determined to crack down on hooliganism, deducted three league points from both Olympiakos and Panionios, while the points up for grabs from their canceled encounter were nullified. Moreover, the clubs were slapped with heavy fines. Olympiakos was subsequently overtaken by rival Panathinaikos at the Greek first division’s top spot and mid-placed Panionios lost some ground from the pack of front runners. Olympiakos’s administration will hold a meeting today at its Karaiskaki home stadium, to which MPs and municipal authorities representing the local Piraeus district have been invited. Participants are expected to discuss further action to be taken by the club in response to the penalty, which it considers unjust. The trouble that erupted in the stands prior to Olympiakos’s away match against Panionios two weekends ago led to widespread bedlam. Fourteen policemen were hospitalized and one fan required head surgery. Olympiakos players yesterday released their own statement aimed at distancing the club from the misbehavior of fans. «We feel that this fine is unjust, especially its reduction of three points we earned on the ground. This is an unheard-of and unprecedented decision that eliminates every sense of the game’s Fair Play [principle],» the statement noted. «We fight on the pitch for the club’s history, the fans, and our families… We are not in any way responsible for the specific game’s postponement,» it added. Commenting yesterday on local radio station Super Spor FM, Olympiakos player Dimitris Mavrogenidis said that the team’s efforts had taken it «to the top [of the standings]» but that it now «trailed the rivals, which is causing anxiety.» Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Orfanos, who holds the country’s sports portfolio, promised yesterday that, unlike in the past, all teams, whether big or small, would from now on be treated in uniform fashion. Until now, Greece’s more powerful clubs have tended to enjoy greater immunity for various issues, including hooliganism. In a publicity stunt that seemed to cheer up grim Olympiakos fans right before Sunday’s 1-0 home win against visiting Iraklis, the club’s president, entrepreneur Socrates Kokkalis, walked onto the pitch with retired soccer legend Diego Maradona. He was handed an Olympiakos No. 10 jersey bearing his name, as well as a club membership card. Maradona, who has struggled to overcome a highly publicized drug problem in recent years, and whose life during this time has been mostly confined to rehabilitation centers, arrived in Greece last week for cash-generating interviews with local media.