The Case for the Missing Scale
AGONAsport’s Olympiacos contributor, Theo Bouras, discusses this weekend’s events at the Toumba stadium which resulted in the cancellation of the big derby between PAOK and Olympiacos.
They don’t cost us a fortune, they’re easy to store and they can solve all of Greek football’s issues. A scale between benches during derby matches, is exactly what we need to end fan violence. Think about it, we can individually weigh every object that is tossed onto the field. The lighter ones will be dismissed, whereas the heavier and “more dangerous” items would be subject to penalties and team fines. If you’re wondering if I have gone insane, I don’t blame you.
Today marks a dark day for Greek football, but Sunday was not supposed to be. England had a thrilling derby where Manchester United came back and defeated Chelsea at Old Trafford, and Arsenal got trounced at home 0-3 against Manchester City. Italy had a Roma-AC Milan encounter that had the guests winning convincingly 0-2. Spain featured a lopsided Sevilla and Atletico Madrid game, while Schalke defeated Bayer Leverkusen in Germany in what is turning in to a 5-team dog fight for the Bundesliga’s 2nd place.
Greece had a big derby on deck, too. It’s not the Greek El Clasico between the Greens and the Reds but PAOK-Olympiacos games never lack action or drama. This past Sunday, the two teams barely had time to get onto the pitch. You all know by now that a fan threw a paper-roll from a cash register that landed on Olympiacos coach Oscar García’s face. Savvas Theodoridis, Vice-President and General Director of the Erythrolefki instructed all the Olympiacos players to go back to the dressing room and the contest was over before it began.
The debates quickly began on Greek television, on sports websites and on social media. Was Oscar García playing possum in order to penalize PAOK? Comparisons were made to Vladan Ivíc’s injury last year at Leoforo during the 2017 playoffs. Ivíc, who was PAOK’s manager, had received a beer can (some claim empty, others claim full) off the head from a Green supporter. Panathinaikos was leading that game 1-0 in the 53rd minute and after Ivíc got hurt, the game was halted and PAOK was awarded the game 0-3. In addition to the loss, Panathinaikos was deducted 3 points from last year’s playoffs and 2 points from this season’s Superleague. The Prasinoi also received a 3-game match ban and had to pay a hefty fine.
Kyriakos Kyriakou, PAOK’s Director of Communications, was angered by Olympiacos’ board and claimed they were “trying to avoid the inevitable loss”, while PAOK’s coach Razvan Lucescu called the team from Piraeus “a bunch of cowards”. Konstantinos Karapapas, Olympiacos’s Director of Communications, demanded that PAOK offer an apology. Kyriakou and Karapapas have been going at it back-and-forth on social media in a childish dialogue that does nothing to honor either team.
How can it be that in 2018, in a civilized country that is Greece, the last thing we are talking about is Garcîa’s safety? How have we gotten so consumed with the sport that we have become desensitized to human injury? Historically, Toumba has been hell for Olympiacos, and that has nothing to do with the results. The Reds hadn’t lost in Thessaloniki between 1997 and 2010 but fan violence has been a constant. Whether it’s fish or flames toss onto the guests’ bench, rocks thrown while Olympiacos players are taking a corner kick, or fans invading the pitch and chasing the team, PAOK fans are not great hosts when Olympiacos is in town. For these reasons, no one can blame Theodoridis for taking the team and leaving before things really degenerated.
Olympiacos forward Kevin Mirallas made a very offensive gesture towards the crowd once Garcîa collapsed on Sunday. During Mirallas’s first stint in Piraeus, the Belgian international received a glass on his eye while being subbed off. The ironic part is that that particular Greek Cup game was supposed to be played behind closed doors. This doesn’t justify his obscene gesture, but it does put into perspective the real animosity that exists on the pitch when derbies occur.
After all is set and done, PAOK is facing the possibility of being deducted 3 points, of losing the game 0-3, of having no home fans for at least two matchdays, and of paying a fine. The Dikefaloi tou Vorra were cruising along in the League this season and were poised to snap their 33-year Championship-less drought. Instead, they risk losing it all and potentially falling out of the top 2 league spots that lead to the Champions League qualifiers.
The PAOK board is scrambling to make excuses; the same excuses Olympiacos made after Rizoupoli in 2003, the same excuses AEK made when their fans invaded the pitch in 2013 after realizing relegation was inevitable, and the same excuses Panathinaikos fans made when all hell broke loose in Leoforo in 2015 before the game against Olympiacos. The result has been more fan violence, a league that is self-destructing and stadiums that nearly contain no families but plenty of hooligans who harm the clubs they supposedly love.
All these cases need to be made examples of. The 27-year old PAOK supporter who threw the roll had been charged on three prior occasions! Somehow, he was able to access a seat in the VIP zone and he might have caused PAOK a League title that their fan-base has waited an entire lifetime for. How does a person with that kind of track record get a VIP ticket? How can PAOK not take any responsibility for their failure to properly keep their home pitch safe and secure?
The owners and administrators of all the big Greek clubs seem to think that nothing is wrong with all their respective fan-bases. Their club is always the victim, their opponents are always the culprits who fake their injuries. Maybe it’ll take for someone to get paralyzed, or even worse, lose a life for something to really change in Greece. Until then, we can be the doctors, we can grab our scale and we can judge the severity of every injury ourselves.