Rivaldo to continue with AEK

AEK’s Brazilian star Rivaldo told club president Demis Nikolaidis yesterday that he has decided to stay on with the Athens team after all. The 36-year-old player attributed his decision to the warm and generous support received from the club and fans, as well as AEK’s ambitious plans and drive for future success. Angered by his previous club Olympiakos’s title victory this season – a success that was aided by a tribunal decision to award Olympiakos three points for a game it had lost as a result of rival Apollon Kalamaria’s use of an ineligible player – Rivaldo vowed to quit and return to his native Brazil immediately on completion of the regular season. AEK ended second, two points behind Olympiakos. The Brazilian, who declared that «champions don’t compete in playoffs,» then withdrew this decision to battle it out in the playoffs with his AEK teammates. However AEK has faired badly, losing its second spot captured in the regular home-and-away season. In today’s last round of the playoffs, AEK hosts Panathinaikos, trailing its rival by an insurmountable five points, which means that the Greens have already assured their berth for the Champions League’s qualifying round next season. In the other mini-league game, Aris hosts Panionios. «The truth is that I felt great disappointment and injustice because of the way the season ended, but the love and support I received from the team and fans contributed to my decision,» said Rivaldo. Reports said that during his talks with Rivaldo, Nikolaidis spoke of plans for a powerful club, impressive new signings, and correction of previous errors. Insiders contended that the opportunity for revenge against Olympiakos was another major factor behind Rivaldo’s decision to stay and honor his contract, which expires at the end of next season. Last week, AEK’s basketball club paid tribute to the club’s soccer division as the season’s «moral» champions at a ceremony staged at a basketball game against Olympiakos.