Greek soccer game postponed after fans clash with police, storm field
Fans clash with riot police on the pitch before the Greek Super League soccer match between Panathinaikos Athens and Olympiakos Piraeus at Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium in Athens, Greece, 21 November 2015. The match was suspended by the referee due to fan violence. EPA/PANAGIOTIS MOSCHANDREOY
Demetris Nellas, The Associated Press
Published Saturday, November 21, 2015 4:18PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, November 21, 2015 7:00PM EST
ATHENS, Greece -- The Greek league match between host Panathinaikos and archrival Olympiakos was postponed after home fans clashed with police before the game and threw flares at Olympiakos players as they walked out onto the pitch.
Referee Andreas Pappas waited half an hour beyond the scheduled kickoff on Saturday but eventually decided that the conditions were unsafe.
The club has hotly contested his decision, while condemning the violence. Club chairman Yiannis Alafouzos issued a statement late Saturday saying he will submit his resignation to an emergency meeting of the club's board Sunday.
"I intend to submit my resignation. I will propose to the board to consider whether Panathinaikos should continue to participate in the league," Alafouzos, one of Greece's major media moguls, said.
Earlier, the club had issued a statement blaming "the individual action of 2-3 fools" for throwing the flares, but also the referee whose "entirely mistaken and irresponsible decision" to abort the game led to the violence, according to the club.
Panathinaikos will likely forfeit the game and, depending on the referee's report, it could also be docked points, fined and made to play a number of home games behind closed doors.
Clashes between Panathinaikos fans and police started outside the venue about two hours before the game when fans, apparently without tickets, attempted to storm the gates and threw rocks at the police.
Collisions between police and fans continued inside the ground until it was evacuated about an hour after the referee decided not to start the match. Journalists were also set upon.
The empty field was littered with hundreds of broken plastic chairs and a few metal pipes.
A flare thrown from the stands hit Olympiakos forward Alfred Finnbogason in the leg. The Iceland international, on loan to Olympiakos from Real Sociedad, was filming the clashes with his cellphone. Olympiakos officials said he suffered mild burns and was spared a worse injury because he, like his fellow players, had not taken off his tracksuit. Defender Luka Milivojevic was also injured, the team announced.
Olympiakos finally left the central Athens stadium two hours after the game was cancelled, as police made sure nearby streets were safe.
No Olympiakos fans attended the game. It is standard policy in the violence-plagued Greek league not to allow visiting fans to attend.
"Over 50 persons were detained inside and outside the stadium...so far, 16 have been charged" with various offences, police announced, adding that 3 policemen had been injured in the clashes.
Olympiakos leads the league with 10 wins in as many games, with Panathinaikos eight points behind and third-place Asteras, 1-0 winner over Atromitos Saturday, a further point adrift with an extra game played. Also Saturday, Giannena beat Kalloni 2-1.
Yorgos Karahalis contributed to this report.