by Greg Gavalas
It seems there is one thing the Greek Football Federation cannot do right and that is get a Greek Cup final series right.
Last season we saw the Cup Final played behind closed doors over another farce, this seasons Greek Cup had all the ingredients you need to make the most of Greek Football and make up for so many years of corruption and violence.
Sadly, the 2017 Greek Cup has made headlines for the wrong reasons, there was certainly some highlights but overall the planning for the final was abysmal and embarrassing to say the least and the centerpiece itself was highlighted by a horrible lineman non call on an obvious offside which gave PAOK a 2-1 win over AEK.
AEK got to the final with a couple of great quality games against 2016/17 Champions Olympiakos, first game especially was one of the better Greek games of the season.
PAOK turned a 2-0 deficit to Panathinaikos, to a 4-2 win in Thessaloniki, the return game in Toumba dominated some headlines for some penalty calls that did not go in favor of Panathinaikos but you could not take away from the 4 goals scored by PAOK.
So the final was set and it was announced that the Panthessaliko Stadium in Volos.
With the game set for Saturday, on Thursday it was announced that the game would be unofficially postponed due to couple for reasons, main one being that, in one part of the stadium that holds 7,000 spectators, there is not toilet facilities... I personally don't understand how this stadium could have held other games in the past (Cup final 2007 for one) and not had this issue previously!
The police of Volou was also not confirmed to availability until later in the week.
An Interim board meeting was set up for Friday and 24 hours later the game was officially back on!
So the big day arrived, on the East Coast of Australia, the game was set for 3:30am, I decided to have an easy night and watched a sci fi movie that night, that movie was District 9.
When I woke up to watch the pre match show I thought I was watching the movie again as the footage was of PAOK and AEK fans fighting in what looked like District 9! To give you a better picture, District 9 is basically a militarized ghetto …
Further to that there is ridiculous scenes of fans fighting in the stadium, fans trying to get onto the field, a complete nightmare. Instead of enjoying the occasion people are trying to hurt one another and for what great reason? None, you're better off going there and enjoying the occasion and game with your friends, family and supporters.
The chaos did not stop there, in more amature issues, many parts of the stadium did not have visible seat numbers on the allocated seats so fans did not know where to sit, this lies squarely with the stadium owners who clearly have not done much over the years.
Many fans needed medical attention due to the fights before and after the game, one fan was seriously injured after falling over and been set upon by 30 opposition fans and there was fights close to where the big two (Savvidis and Melissanidis) where sitting forcing the power brokers to change seats.
After the match the AEK (bus) coach was vandalized by PAOK fans who threw rocks and bricks at the windows breaking part of the front window.
The match itself was marred by officials, in particular linesman Giorgos Kalfoglou who was the deciding factor of the game.
Kalfoglou disallowed a goal to Lazaros Christodoulopoulos of AEK early in the match, the goal was deemed offside, it was a close call but Lazaros was inline with PAOK's last defender and thus onside.
The same lineman did not call offside on Pedro Henrique's goal which would be the match winner, the problem is Henrique was 1 meter offside and there was another PAOK player offside too which should not have been hard to spot.
Since then Kalfoglou has resigned as an official and admitted he was wrong and apologized to AEK for his mistake. It has not stopped Dimitris Melissanidis (AEK) coming out and stating that the game was fixed.
As a whole, people running the game in Greece need to do a much better job and step up to their responsibilities.
Stadium prep and fan organization/security needed to be done earlier, officials must understand the damage this continues to plague the image and brand of Greek Football turning many fans away, especially from abroad, these scenarios are almost unheard of in other parts of the world, and whilst "this is Greece" they still need to get these things right before the world is laughing at us.
There is still the Super League playoffs to come, AEK, PAOK and Panathinaikos will all meet at least two more times so I hope those games are clean and free from poor officiating which decides a game as frankly the game in Greece needs to become about the players and not the referee or linesman.
Time will tell, for the better or the worse, one thing is for sure, they need to get it right before more fans are turned off.
Step up EPO, otherwise let me run the game in Greece with some exoterico standards.