SPORTS

Hooliganism reaches new low

During his 16-year tenure at Panathinaikos, Greek basketball star Frangiskos Alvertis has felt plenty – both good and bad. But the club captain had never felt as strange as he did following his team’s successful league title defense last week for back-to-back league-and-cup triumphs. After lifting the trophy to jubilant fans, Alvertis headed to the dressing rooms where congratulations were exchanged, took a sip of the customary champagne, and then departed feeling cold with just a tight smile on his face, as photos of the day depicted. For Alvertis, violent scenes caused by Panathinaikos fans against visiting Olympiakos players during his team’s home win for a 3-0 win in a best-of-five final series, spoiled the triumph’s elation. When the third and final game was interrupted after an exploding firecracker injured two Olympiakos players, Alvertis reacted angrily against some of his team’s fans in a bid to convince them that revenge was not necessary for trouble in the series’ previous away encounter. Once the third and final game was over, Alvertis threatened to throw a punch or two to help offer Olympiakos players protection on their way back to the dressing rooms. «I’ve experienced all sorts of unpleasant things during games, and I’ve even survived because of luck. But I think we’ve reached the pits,» warned Alvertis. «I think the next stage for the worst could be a heavily injured or dead athlete. As tragic and extreme as it may sound, Greece is the only part of Europe where conditions are ripe for something like this to happen. I’m sorry, but this just can’t go on,» he continued. Alvertis, who heads the country’s association of professional basketball players, PSAK, said he would push for immediate negotiations with domestic competition officials in search of remedies and protection for players. «We won’t get up and walk away from the table if a solution isn’t provided. We work, provide a spectacle and are professionals, but being targeted by any evil-minded fan is beyond comprehension,» said Alvertis. «Violence in Greek sports has gone through many stages; conditions have worsened a lot since I began playing, and the danger level is now just a step away from the worst happening,» he continued, while adding that should the sad state of hooliganism sink lower, players, too, will start abandoning domestic competition, as pure-minded, sports-loving fans have already done. Despite the fan unrest and negative impact on Alvertis, the star player, who has spent his entire career at Panathinaikos, is expected to renew his contract with the club this summer. Alvertis said the Euroleague’s Final Four tournament, to be hosted in Athens next season, has provided the club with a major opportunity for another European title. Panathinaikos, winner of eight of the last nine domestic league titles, has also won three European titles over the past decade.