Thessaloniki police report five arrests from marred derby

Five fans of the Thessaloniki soccer club Aris were arrested during Sunday’s home derby with crosstown rivals Iraklis for attacking police and Iraklis players, police said yesterday. Four of the Aris fans, aged between 23 and 38, were arrested for throwing stones, bottles, firecrackers and other objects at Iraklis players and police officers sent to maintain order during the match. The fifth fan was detained for assaulting an Iraklis player during a pitch invasion in the 41st minute. One of the home team fans appeared to head-butt Iraklis defender Tassos Katsabis. He was taken to hospital along with goalkeeper Giorgos Abaris, who was punched in the head. Aris fans stormed the pitch just as their team had scored a goal to pull back to 2-1. The trouble had started before the game when Aris fans threw a tear gas canister into the dressing room of their city rivals. The hosts were desperate for a victory to avoid relegation, and Greek media reported that Iraklis players had received anonymous threats by phone during the preceding week. The match was eventually abandoned by the referee after a one-and-a-half hour wait following injuries to two Iraklis players. One of them was reportedly hit with a crowbar. The Greek Professional Football Clubs Association (EPAE) began investigating the case yesterday. A verdict is expected on Thursday. Aris look certain to lose on paper, and the club also risks being sanctioned a further three points. Either way, Aris, who are set to play in the Cup final next Saturday, will be relegated to the second division. Tension over this weekend’s football fixtures was rife all week in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city. In addition to the Aris-Iraklis showdown, heavy fan pressure was exerted on another crosstown clash between PAOK and Apollon Kalamaria. The latter club was also struggling against relegation. Eager to see Aris dunked into the second division, PAOK fans called on their team to lose the Apollon game, and booed their side’s players. PAOK ultimately lost 2-1. (AFP, Reuters)