Fenerbahce fans will stay put

Turkey’s Fenerbahce will travel to Athens for their UEFA Cup match against Panathinaikos without supporters due to security concerns, the Greek club confirmed yesterday. The opening match in Istanbul, the first between clubs from the two neighboring countries, was marred by violent scenes inside and outside the stadium despite tight security. The two sides are due meet at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium in Athens city center tomorrow for the second leg of their UEFA Cup second-round match after a 1-1 draw in the opener. A package of security measures was agreed between the Greek soccer federation, EPO, and police on Friday, but the clubs agreed on Monday to leave Turkish supporters groups at home to avoid possible clashes. Fenerbahce will bring an official delegation of 150, including club employees, VIPs and guests, according to the Athens News Agency. «We have never been involved in anything like this,» a Panathinaikos spokesman told Reuters. Three thousand police, including the special riot squad MAT, will be deployed in and around the stadium in order to keep rival supporters apart, according to officials. Over 650 Turkish supporters were expected for the match. The UEFA Cup tie is the first full competitive meeting between clubs from the two regional rivals and comes as Greece and Turkey promote a joint bid for the 2008 European soccer championships. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos are expected to attend the match along with a high-ranking Turkish delegation, according to Panathinaikos officials. More than 1,000 Greek supporters followed their team to Turkey for the October 31 game, where Greek and Turkish diplomats were pelted with debris in a walkabout before kickoff. Further clashes between supporters occurred outside the arena, with sporadic incidents reported in the following days. Panathinaikos severed all links with supporters’ organizations following the scenes in Istanbul, but the persistent hooligan element vandalized a Patras stadium prior to their 3-0 win over Panachaiki in last weekend’s league match. The Athens club was fined $16,000 for crowd violence during their first round match against Poland’s Litex Lovech. Panathinaikos have played all their domestic league matches behind closed doors this season as punishment for hooliganism in last March’s Athens derby against Olympiakos, where a referee was assaulted. (Reuters)

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