Panathinaikos players ambushed and injured

The second game in the best-of-three semifinal series for the national basketball league between defending champion Panathinaikos and Olympiakos was postponed for a second time in three days yesterday after a stone attack by hooligans on the Panathinaikos team bus left five players and one team assistant injured. The players – forward Corey Albano, team captain Frangiskos Alvertis, and guards Giorgos Kalaitzis, Giorgos Baloyiannis and Damir Mulaomerovic – were admitted to hospital for treatment of slight injuries caused by broken glass. The bus, which was being heavily escorted by police along its route to Olympiakos’s home ground, the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Faliron, less than two hours before the game’s scheduled starting time, was ambushed by hooded, stone-throwing hooligans on Syngrou Avenue, just a few kilometers from the arena, in the Kallithea district. The culprits, whom police said numbered about 10, were seen escaping from the scene on motorbikes. No arrests have been made. Panathinaikos, which last Sunday was crowned European champion for the third time in the club’s history, was on its way to a do-or-die game after a loss at home in the opening game of the semifinal playoff series. Olympiakos needs just one more victory to meet AEK in the finals. Following the incident, those Panathinaikos players not taken for treatment returned to their meeting place, the Divani Caravel hotel. In the stadium, only Olympiakos players turned up and practiced before the referees called off the match after 45 minutes. Far from expressing regret at the incident, Olympiakos Vice President Giorgos Salonikis protested that Panathinaikos had, in effect, forfeited the match by not showing up. Informed about the injuries, he said that there had been a precedent a few years back, when only seven out of 12 CSKA Moscow players had turned up for a Euroleague game against Olympiakos and only three had been able to finish the game. Panathinaikos’s uninjured players ought to have turned up and played, Salonikis said. A new date for the encounter is expected to be announced today.