IOANNIS DARAS / AIPS —- It was the last minute of an important match in the Greek SuperLeague: PAOK against AEK at PAOK’s “Toumba” Stadium in Thessaloniki on Sunday, when referee Giorgios Kominis disallowed a PAOK goal for offside, a goal that would have given them a 1-0 victory and put them two points within leaders AEK.

Just at this moment the owner of PAOK Ivan Savvidis entered onto the pitch followed by his bodyguards, with a black gun visible in his belt pocket demanding that his players walk out.

Tobacco business supremo Savvidis is listed by Forbes as 30th in the league table of Russian oligarchs and, supposedly, has close links to President Vladimir Putin.

Savvidis goes pitchside -- with a gun at his hip

Lubos Michel, PAOK’s Slovene sporting director and former international referee was also involved in the weekend incident, with pointed words for the match referee Geogios Kominis: “You are finished”.

At the same time, Savvidis charged onto the pitch again and tried to attack AEK delegates but was held back by bodyguards.

The game was stopped amid chaos on the pitch. After two hours however, the referee recalled his offside decision and asked AEK to continue the game for the last two minutes of additional time, with the standing 1-0 result before the goal was disallowed.

Pressure point

AEK claimed pressure had been put on the referee and denied to continue under these conditions, and the game, and the Greek championship with it, never continued.

The next morning, the Sports Minister Giorgos Vassiliadis met Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and announced that the Greek championship and the Greek cup had been suspended with immediate effect.

He said: “It won’t start again unless there is a clear framework, agreed by all, to move forward with conditions and rules.”

Immediate reactions also followed from governing bodies of FIFA and UEFA, making a football ‘Grexit’ more possible than ever after years of the nation’s football being marred with controversy.

The official statement of the Greek government read:

“We have made the decision to stop football for the duration of the SUPER LEAGUE professional championship for the period 2017-2018 and football matches for the Greek Football Cup for the period 2017-2018, with immediate effect from 12/03/2018.

This interruption was deemed necessary because of the increased rivalry and the extremely tense climate shaped by the appearance of a team official on the pitch, namely the president of PAOK, Mr. Savidis, who appeared to be armed during the altercation that took place on Sunday 11/03/2018 on the Toumba stadium, between the teams PAOK – AEK, which is shown on the video of the online coverage of the match and the incendiary statements of the officials during the current season, especially during recent games.

This poses serious risks to public order and security, since it is likely that the slightest cause may trigger widespread violent behavior.”

FIFA verdict

FIFA issued its own official statement, saying:

“The FIFA Monitoring Committee responsible for the monitoring of the Hellenic (Greek) Football Federation strongly condemns the recent incidents in Greece and urges all national football stakeholders to act immediately to put an end to the unacceptable situation arising in Greek football.

Even though the recent incidents occurred in the context of a national competition, meaning that disciplinary measures fall under the jurisdiction of the competent judicial bodies of the HFF, the FIFA Monitoring Committee is closely following this situation and now expects appropriate measures to be taken, and rapidly. In the meantime, the FIFA Monitoring Committee also takes note of the decision by the Greek Government to provisionally suspend the 2017/18 domestic Super League championship.

Failure to take proper actions by the competent bodies to eradicate all sorts of violence in order to guarantee the smooth running of the national competitions, would oblige FIFA to refer the case to the FIFA Member Associations Committee, reporting to the FIFA Council, for consideration and possible sanctions as provided for in the FIFA Statutes, including the suspension of the member association.”

What next? 

The disciplinary commission of UEFA is working on this Greek case and similar other European cases such as outbursts at Lille, West Ham and Spartak Moscow.

The European confederation asked for and received detailed information on the events, while of course they did not fail to notice that the episodes and the interruption of the match was top on the news agenda across Europe.

The truth is that the intensity of the events caused the governing body shock but also disappointment, because it is understood that for some time now UEFA has been working with the Greek Football Federation and FIFA on upgrading the situation in the Greek national league.

In other words, they feel betrayed by the developments. Whether they will take concrete actions together with the Greek government will soon see it.

** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. More information:

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