AEK disowns its fans

Provocative behavior by some of AEK’s fans before the Greek soccer club’s UEFA Cup clash against Scottish rival Hibernian last month, in which they shunned preplanned acts of remembrance for the victims of the terrorist attacks in the USA, has embarrassed the Greek government and damaged the club’s reputation abroad following negative press reports. Nine days after the September 11 attacks, AEK fans burnt the Israeli flag and tried to ignite the American one, expressed support for the suspected perpetrator, Osama bin Laden, and jeered during a moment of silence for the terrorist victims prior to their team’s 2-0 victory at home. That win, combined with a 3-2 defeat in the second leg, was enough to earn the Greek team a place in the competition’s next round. There was a minute’s silence at all 77 European games played during that week. AEK fans had also displayed appalling behavior in the UEFA Cup’s return leg in Scotland. Responding to chants of USA, USA… by Hibernian’s supporters, Greek fans imitated flying airplanes and made jet noises. In its effort to rectify the situation, the Greek government sent a letter of apology to the US administration, while AEK’s players and leading fan club officials will visit the US Embassy tomorrow to sign its book of condolences. According to the Washington Post, the director of the Greek Embassy’s press office in Washington, Achilleas Paparsenos, addressed a letter of apology to the US government in which he noted that the behavior of some hooligans did not reflect the sadness felt by the Greek nation as a whole over the tragedy. Greece stands by America in the fight against terrorism and has already offered its help. The unreasonable behavior of some fanatical individuals, which one can find in any country of the world, does not, in any way, represent their compatriots who are unreservedly committed to fighting the forces of evil, the letter noted. An anonymous charge against the AEK club has been submitted to UEFA, the competition’s governing body, calling for the team’s disqualification. Though UEFA has not made any official announcements, its most likely response will be to impose a fine on the Greek club.

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