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Federation boss refers reporters toRehhagel about surprise call-up

Otto Rehhagel’s unexpected call-up of sidelined defender Michalis Kapsis for Saturday’s Euro 2008 qualifier against Norway proved a surprise to some local soccer pundits who have tended to disagree with the national team coach’s insistence on specific players. Kapsis, a key contributor to Greece’s Euro 2004 triumph who has not played a single match since July due to injuries, was rejected just hours after his call-up because his club refused permission for him to play. Olympiakos coach Trond Sollied informed Rehhagel that the defender was still on the recovery track from nagging injuries. Rehhagel’s surprise initiative to summon the sidelined player was brought up during a local radio interview yesterday with the Greek soccer federation’s president, Vassilis Gagatsis. «Selections concern the national team’s coach, so it would be better to ask the man himself,» Gagatsis said, responding to a query about the sidelined defender’s call-up. «As for what was discussed between the coaches of Olympiakos and the national team, once again, I’ll refer you to the national team’s coach. And as for Kapsis’s remarks, I refer you to the player himself.» When his club failed to give the player leave to join the national team, Kapsis, speaking on local radio, noted: «Olympiakos will not allow me to got to the national team. I do not want to say anymore, but would like to thank Mr Rehhagel for his trust.» Rehhagel considered bringing in Kapsis as a replacement for injured midfielder Panayiotis Lagos. «The matter is now closed. Kapsis will not be part of the team,» a Greek soccer federation official said yesterday. Reports said that Rehhagel discussed Kapsis’s situation with Sollied late on Tuesday night but did not insist on Olympiakos releasing the player for Greece’s Group C matches against Norway in Athens this Saturday and in Bosnia four days later. During yesterday’s radio interview, Gagatsis was also asked about the selections of Lagos and Dimitris Papadopoulos, who were both forced to withdraw from the national team’s squad after its medical team determined that both lacked full fitness. Both players joined the Greek squad without notifying officials of injuries. «The selections of Papadopoulos and Lagos indicate that the whole system did not work as it should have. The federation is to blame for that, even though the boys are also greatly responsible for not having informed us of their injuries,» said Gagatsis. «The coach did not know that Papadopoulos and Lagos were injured. A simple phone call by the players to the coach would have been enough. These calls were not made. Let’s not blame the coach for this, too,» Gagatsis added. Players are obliged to respond when summoned for national soccer duty. Lagos was aware of his injury, but Papadopoulos’s problem, a knee-related concern, was apparently discovered by the national team’s medical team. Gagatsis, reacting to the disapproval expressed by certain pundits over Kapsis’s call-up, urged the Greek public to sweep aside the ordeal and instead focus on Saturday’s game against Norway, to be played at the 33,000-capacity Karaiskaki Stadium outside the Greek capital’s port city of Piraeus. «Let’s focus on the game. The team is in good shape; the players are fit, and the overall mood is very good,» said Gagatsis. «Ticket sales are going well and I expect us to have 30,000 people at the stadium,» he added. As for Greece’s Euro qualifier in Bosnia next Wednesday, Gagatsis said the federation was assured of 600 tickets for Greek fans. Commenting on the possible nationalization of Olympiakos’s 22-year-old Nery Castillo, a Uruguayan citizen who has been with the Greek club for six years and has yet to be capped, Gagatsis said the prospect was being looked at seriously. The prospect of Castillo joining the national team would be looked at more carefully following Greece’s next two games, Gagatsis said. Castillo, a regular starter for Greek champions Olympiakos this season following previous years of inconsistency, has so far impressed both domestically and in the Champions League this year.