Athens: The Greek government on Wednesday suspended all matches in the country's football Super League following violence between rival supporters. "The violence in sport in recent years is unacceptable and it is inconceivable to tolerate," Deputy Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis said after a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that ordered the suspension.
Serious crowd unrest erupted on Sunday at a game between Athens arch-rivals Olympiakos, the Super League leaders, and Panathinaikos. And on Tuesday, officials from the two clubs clashed at a meeting of the Super League intended to bring the two sides together. "Under these conditions it is unthinkable to conduct our competitions," the deputy minister added.
The third suspension this season will apply for at least this weekend while security measures are taken, the deputy minister said. The government wants security cameras installed, greater use of e-tickets by supporters to help identify troublemakers and greater control of supporters' clubs. Kontonis said the government would meet on Wednesdsay next week to decide whether to extend the suspension.
Fans invaded the pitch during Sunday's game at Panathinaikos, firing flares and hurling seats and other missiles. Before the so-called "derby of the eternal enemies", flares, firecrackers and stones were thrown at Olympiakos president Vangelis Marinaikis. He was not hurt. Just before the start of the second half, a flare hurled by a spectator hit Olympiakos' Swiss midfielder Pajtim Kasami on the shoulder.
A chair was thrown at Olympiakos' Portuguese coach VÃtor Pereira, narrowly missing him. About 50 Panathinaikos fans then ran onto the pitch to chase him away. Riot police fired tear gas to restore order in the ground. Two people were slightly injured during the scuffles which lasted five minutes, media reports said.
Olympiakos reacted with anger to the ban. "Instead of putting a padlock on Panathinaikos' stadium for the outrages of this past Sunday, they put a padlock on the Greek championship," the club said in a statement. Panathinaikos' British goalkeeper Luke Steele said on Twitter that the suspension was "total nonsense" and "won't solve a thing." Greek football has long been marred by violence.
In September matches were halted after a supporter from Ethnikos was killed in Crete during a third division match. In November a referee was attacked and hospitalized. The bitterness runs deep though. A Super League board meeting was called on Tuesday to discuss the violence and ended in a fight between officials from Olympiakos and Panathinaikos after their president exchanged insults.
Panathinaikos president Giannis Alafouzos said his assistant, former player Vasilis Konstantinou, suffered a cut lip inflicted by a bodyguard for Marinaikis. "We were assaulted. Mr. Marinakis threw a glass of water at me and then his bodyguard threw a punch at Mr. Konstantinou. I cannot believe that a board of the Super League had such violence," Alafouzos said.