International ban on Greek soccer expected to be lifted

The Greek soccer federation’s chief asserted yesterday that a recent ban imposed by the sport’s international governing body barring Greece from international competition due to governmental interference in the running of the game would be lifted. The comments from Vassilis Gagatsis, head of EPO, the local soccer federation, came late yesterday afternoon ahead of last night’s parliamentary discussion of an amendment that was expected to be ratified by a strong majority. Gagatsis, who had relayed his concerns to FIFA about the Greek government’s interference in domestic soccer matters, said an amendment that makes EPO solely responsible for the running of the sport in Greece had been accepted by his federation. Local approval by EPO will presumably lead to a lifting of the ban on Greek soccer by FIFA. The international body had set a July 15 deadline. «The amendment of Article 29, Paragraph 12 of the bill regarding professional sports is the result of an agreement reached with the Sports Ministry and has been accepted by the Greek Soccer Federation,» Gagatsis noted. FIFA’s ban, imposed earlier this month, barred all Greek clubs and the national team from international competition. A series of amendments had been drafted by the government’s top sporting official, Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Orfanos, before EPO finally gave its blessing yesterday. Commenting yesterday afternoon, Orfanos said the Greek government intended to inform FIFA officials of the amendment’s ratification as soon as the parliamentary voting procedures were completed. While confirming the EPO chief’s blessing of the amendment, Orfanos said he believed there would be «a swift decision from FIFA» that would «liberate both the Greek soccer federation and our clubs from the ban prompted by the decision on July 3.» Heads of certain Greek clubs, including Socrates Kokkalis, president of defending league champion Olympiakos, a qualifier for the coming season’s lucrative Champions League, warned that they would take legal action for deprived club revenues if the ban excludes their teams from international competition.