Greece returning to OAKA?

Greek soccer authorities are in a dilemma as to whether the national team should continue hosting its opponents at the Pankrition Stadium in Crete or return to Athens and the Olympic Stadium. After Greece served its punishment for fan trouble in the match against Turkey in March with two games played on Crete, away from Greece’s registered home ground, the Karaiskaki Stadium in Piraeus, the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) can now choose the venue for the European champions’ next home fixture in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. The next home tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina is set for October 13. EPO has been more than satisfied with the public’s response on Crete and would be happy to stage the Bosnia game in Iraklion, as it did twice in June, against Hungary and Moldova. Yet the problems which season ticket holders may have with having to travel again to Crete or wishing to claim compensation from EPO for moving Greece’s home games away from the capital may well convince EPO to bring the national team back to Athens and choose the Olympic Stadium for the Bosnia match, as well as for the last home game in Greece’s Euro 2008 qualification campaign against Malta. The latter would present fans with the opportunity to give the team a send-off before the finals in Austria and Switzerland, where Greece will try to defend the crown it took in Portugal in 2004. UEFA has signaled to EPO that it does not wish to see any more games staged at the Karaiskaki Stadium, «at least in the current qualification phase.» A move now from Iraklion back to Athens would of course disappoint fans on Crete who gave strong support to the champions, helping them beat both of their opponents. This blow for local fans can be softened as EPO president Vassilis Gagatsis has promised that the Pankrition Stadium will play host to a major national team tournament in the future. Since manager Otto Rehhagel has said he does not mind where the next home matches are staged in Greece, the decision is now down to Gagatsis and the players themselves. EPO meanwhile received 600 tickets this week for the tie against Norway in Oslo on September 12. The Hania-based Greece fan club «Galanolefkos Faros» has already chartered a flight to Norway and will take 160 fans to support Greece in that crucial away match. Sealing qualification Greece’s under-19 team is playing the hosts today (9 p.m.) in its second match at the European youth championship staged in Austria. After manager Nikos Nioplias saw his team down Portugal 1-0 on Monday, thanks to a Costas Mitroglou goal, he says a win over Austria will seal Greece’s passage to the semifinals. Austria lost its first game to Spain (0-2).

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