SPORTS

Maroussi misses out on Euroleague

Tomorrow was supposed to be the day of Maroussi’s first match in the qualifying rounds of basketball’s Euroleague. However the club has been excluded as it failed to submit its entry in time last week, leaving Greece with only two representatives in the new Euroleague, Panathinaikos and Olympiakos. The northern Athens team is close to folding as a group of investors led by Giorgos Gamaris again failed to make the contract payments they were supposed to last Thursday. As a result, the Professional Sports Commission rejected Maroussi’s application for participation in the new A1 championship and Maroussi missed the deadline for submitting its application for entry to the Euroleague qualifiers, also on Thursday. As a result Budivelnik Kiev will go through to the next round without lifting a finger. The club, which had impressed Europe last season when it entered the top 16 of the Euroleague, failed to submit a letter of guarantee – to the tune of 65,000 euros – to secure its Greek league certificate. Furthermore, Maroussi player Zisis Sarikopoulos left the team and joined Panionios, while the rest of the players are refusing to train as they are also due significant amounts of money. The financial crisis at the northern Athens club is due to the departure of construction company Babis Vovos from its ownership, which was returned to the Municipality of Maroussi. Maroussi Mayor Giorgos Patoulis then contacted Gamaris, who is his friend. Gamaris agreed to lead a group of investors that would take over the management of the basketball club, but they have failed to live up to their financial promises. The news was better for PAOK, though, which now goes straight into the Eurocup (Europe’s second-rate competition) group stage. Panellinios move Meanwhile Panellinios, one of Athens’s oldest basketball clubs, announced its decision last week to move from Kypseli to the central city of Lamia, some 210 kilometers north of Athens. The Eurocup challenger (Panellinios was in the semifinals of the Eurocup last season) decided to move partly because of the poor following the club had in central Athens, but above all due to the clash of the basketball club with its amateur division, which owns the Panellinios court in Kypseli. «We are looking forward to the support of the sports fans and the young people of the city,» said club owner Minos Kyriakou. New coach Thanasis Skourtopoulos, who replaced Ilias Zouros, added: «The city of Lamia is very hospitable and has proven it in the past. I think, with the people’s support and warmth, we can achieve something good.» The move by Panellinios makes some commercial and financial sense, although it is uprooting one of the most historic Athens teams to the benefit of central Greece. With nine clubs in Athens and three from Thessaloniki in the top flight, most Greek provinces are deprived of A1 basketball, with the exception of Kolossos Rhodes and Kavala. It was only two years ago that central Greece was able to boast an unprecedented three clubs in the top division: Trikala, Olympia Larissas and AEL. AEL and Olympia merged, the club got relegated the following year along with Trikala and now both clubs have huge problems in meeting requirements for the A2. Lamia used to have a club in the A2, Ionikos Lamias, but when the league decided to promote Kavala after their merger with Panorama two years ago, and not Dafni or Ionikos, the Lamia club folded, leaving the central Greek city with a wonderful indoor court that was only used for volleyball.