Troubled club gets new boss

Following weeks of maneuvering over new ownership at troubled Thessaloniki soccer club PAOK, the northern city’s biggest, it was announced yesterday that an Argentina-based Greek shipowner, Yiannis Kambanis, would take over the cash-strapped team. The shipowner’s emergence came abruptly, sweeping aside widely publicized interest that had been expressed by a Russia-based entrepreneur, Ivan Savvidis. Moreover, yesterday’s news was also preceded by a covert and unconfirmed takeover campaign by Greek entrepreneur Theodoros Angelopoulos, the husband of former Athens Olympics chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. The 60-year-old Kambanis, who is expected in Greece later this week, has reportedly already injected 1.5 million euros of emergency funds into PAOK. The club’s star player, striker Dimitris Salpiggidis, last season’s top scorer in the Greek first division, and Ifeani Udeze, have both taken legal action against PAOK for unpaid fees, pushing for either payment or release. But the latest developments appear to have appeased their drives. Both players indicated yesterday that they would nullify their legal actions, under the condition that financial normality was restored at the club. Just days ago, UEFA, the governing body for European soccer, ousted PAOK from the UEFA Cup competition in the new season. The body said PAOK had not met a deadline for submitting required financial guarantees. The decision came as a shock for PAOK and a major embarrassment for Greece’s soccer federation, which had previously informed UEFA that the Thessaloniki team had met requirements. Normally UEFA abides by domestic federations, but in this case the governing body overruled. Unable to respond to PAOK’s worsening condition, the club’s previous boss, Yiannis Goumenos, had transferred its control to the amateur division. «The time has come for me to unwind following years spent at sea and, more generally, in shipping. On a personal level, I’m satisfied by fame and money, and would like to tell all PAOK fans and players that things are changing,» said Kambanis yesterday in his first remarks. «Don’t ask for league and cup triumphs from the very first year. All will come with patience once we build the team. I will be in Thessaloniki on Thursday and would like to call for a warm reception… PAOK is a life’s gamble for me and I would like to tell fans that they will certainly love me for it.» 

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