Tue, Mar 13, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Greek game abandoned after ‘armed’ protests

AP, ATHENS

PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis walks onto the pitch during his side’s league match against AEK in Thessaloniki, Greece, on Sunday.

Photo: AP

A disputed goal at the end of a Greek league match on Sunday between leaders AEK and title rivals PAOK led to a pitch invasion by one of the team owners, who appeared to be carrying a gun.

Fernando Varela scored in the 90th minute, putting hosts PAOK ahead 1-0 in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

The referee signaled a goal, but then seemed to disallow it for offside.

PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis came on the pitch twice and was accompanied by bodyguards.

On the second occasion, when he was not wearing an overcoat, Savvidis appeared to be carrying a pistol which was in its holder.

AEK officials claimed Savvidis threatened the referee during his first foray onto the pitch, before being pulled away.

They claim he also threatened AEK operations manager Vassilis Dimitriadis.

AEK said they would file a complaint with FIFA and UEFA.

“After what happened today, PAOK chairman Ivan Savvidis is preparing all necessary procedures to protect the team and all his collaborators from the threats and attacks they have been subjected to,” PAOK said in a statement.

The match was finally abandoned after more than two hours and the stadium emptied of fans.

Adding to the widespread confusion, there were claims that the referee, Giorgos Kominis, had actually allowed the goal.

The score at the time of abandonment remains uncertain — 0-0 or 1-0 to PAOK — with the referee’s report still to come.

AEK claimed that the atmosphere had become too threatening to resume, while the referee was reportedly in favor of resuming.

PAOK’s previous home game never started after Olympiakos coach Oscar Garcia was hit in the face by a cash register roll.

The latest incident has thrown the outcome of the season into further disarray.

“Images of team owners invading the pitch armed are setting back soccer for years,” Greek Deputy Minister for Sports Giorgos Vasileiadis said in a statement after the game. “We will not allow anyone to divert us from our task, even if we have to, in consultation with UEFA, to take difficult decisions.”

That has been widely interpreted as a threat to suspend the entire league.

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