SPORTS

Panathinaikos vs Fenerbahce

Panathinaikos will meet Fenerbahce in the first clash between Greek and Turkish teams in a major European club competition following the UEFA Cup second-round draw yesterday. The closest Greek and Turkish teams have come to a major European fixture was an Intertoto Cup tie between OFI Crete and Bursaspor in 1995. Turkey and Greece are also bidding to co-host the European Championships in 2008, and the tie will provide Europe’s governing body UEFA with a valuable test case before they make a decision in December. Panathinaikos travels to Istanbul for the game against Fenerbahce on October 31, with the return leg on November 14. «Recently, we have had warm relations with Greece,» Fenerbahce official Vedat Olcay told the Anatolia news agency yesterday. «Our veterans went there and played a match. We want Turkish-Greek friendship to be at the forefront of these two UEFA matches.» «The Greek team are a mid-level side compared to the others. I am sure we will get through,» he added. Sami Colgecen, coordinator of the joint Turkish-Greece bid, said the game offered a «fantastic opportunity» to showcase their strengths. «It’s the match of the draw,» he told Reuters in Istanbul. «I am sure nothing will happen and that we will emerge with a plus point for our bid.» Panathinaikos’s Portuguese coach Fernando Santos voiced his support for the regional bid. «It’s a great initiative from the Greek and Turkish federations. I believe the joint hosting would upgrade football in both countries,» he told the official 2008 website. The under-fire former Porto coach showed less enthusiasm for the Fenerbahce tie after his struggling team needed extra time to see off unfancied Bulgarian opponents Litex Lovech in the UEFA Cup first round. «It’s the most difficult draw we could have had. It’s going to be a tough battle and it’s completely open who will go on to the next round,» he said. Greek soccer remains in a state of crisis and the UEFA inspection team are due to arrive in Athens on October 14 with two weeks still to run on a threatened league shutdown. There is no end in sight to a row between the government and club owners demanding compensation for lost digital TV revenues.