Representatives from the international soccer body FIFA are mulling the very real possibility of expelling Greece’s teams from international soccer competitions following an incident in Thessaloniki when a team owner ran onto the playing field brandishing a gun in his belt.
Herbert Huebel, chairman of the FIFA monitoring committee for Greece’s soccer federation, called incidents in Greece “unacceptable” and said “Greek football is going to an edge,” adding that a Greek suspension from international play “is not any more impossible.”
Huebel traveled to Athens to meet with government and league officials after Ivan Savidis, owner of PAOK, burst onto the playing field to protest a referee’s off-side call which led to the cancellation of a goal by his team.
“We all love football but it’s unbearable that people are scared to go to a stadium,” Huebel said in an Associated Press interview. “How can you bring children there when there are guns on the pitch?
“The aim of the game is always to win, of course,” he added. “But it can’t be forced by arms, by threats or even by crime.”
Corruption, crime and violence is not the exception in Greek football– it’s actually the norm. In fact, attendance at games in the traditionally football-fanatic nation has dropped significantly over the years, according to official statistics.
A massive match-fixing investigation took place in 2011 that alleged that more than 40 games played between 2008 and 2011 were fixed.
The scandal came to light in 2011 when more than 130 pages of telephone conversation transcripts, which were the result of wiretapping by the Greek national intelligence agency, were made public.
Charges were originally filed against 85 people, including football players, referees, agents, football club owners and governing body officials, employed in more than 26 football clubs. It is the biggest and most perplexing match-fixing scandal the country has ever seen.
Less than a decade before that, there was a similar scandal in 2002.
Owners of the major teams have been the targets of various investigations involving drug trafficking, threats of violence against referees and players, money laundering and other shady deals both on and off the football pitch.
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