Heightened security measures for second Greco-Turkish clash

Reacting to violence that broke out in the stands during Panathinaikos’s second-round, first-leg UEFA Cup tie against Turkey’s Fenerbahce in Istanbul last week, local authorities have already begun preparing a heightened security plan for the November 14 return leg in Athens. The Istanbul clash, the first ever between Greek and Turkish teams in European competition, which ended 1-1, had been attended by leading government ministers from both nations as part of diplomatic efforts to improve Greek-Turkish relations. Greek government, police, and club officials, as well as representatives from the local Turkish Embassy, met yesterday to discuss the upcoming security effort. Though no final decisions were reached during the session, intentions to forge a solid plan, regardless of its cost, were made clear. Final decisions are expected to be made today at a follow-up meeting. Suggestions, tabled yesterday, included interest by Panathinaikos officials in hiring some 800 private-firm security officers for reinforcement. Also, authorities are considering imposing a 500-ticket limit for visiting Turkish fans while keeping Panathinaikos fans to 12,000, which would allow for wide gaps as safety barriers between rival fans in the stands. Local officials are also contemplating a travel limit on Turkish visitors. Plans to dissuade the Fenerbahce club and Turkish travel agencies from offering extended excursions, lasting days before and after the game, are being considered. Instead, local authorities would prefer to limit Turkish visitors to chartered flights, timed specifically for the game. «The government will take all necessary measures for the game to proceed safely. I’m particularly pleased because Panathinaikos is making important and generous efforts,» goverment spokesman Christos Protopappas remarked yesterday. In comments made to local radio station Spor FM, Panathinaikos’s president, Angelos Filippidis, noted that the security plan was being formulated out of necessity, not as a result of insistent complaints made by the team’s organized fan clubs in recent days. Countless protests have appeared in local media over the mistreatment of Greek fans in Istanbul. «It’s true that our fans persevered through difficult moments in the City [Istanbul], but they should not have responded to the provocations,» said Fillipidis, who added that, if necessary, prospective spectators at next week’s match will be asked to show identification before being issued tickets. «It’s a difficult procedure, but it can be done,» he said. This way, authorities will be able to identify troublemakers.

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