Melbourne (AFP) – Football Federation Australia on Wednesday promised five-year bans for fans who lit flares before and during the Socceroos’ clash with Greece, which was marred by pre-match scuffles.
Melbourne has a large Greek community and hundreds of fans marched from the city’s “Little Athens” precinct on Tuesday evening towards Etihad Stadium, with mounted police moving in after flares were ignited.
Pictures in the Herald Sun showed scuffles breaking out, with some fans using Greek flags to mask their faces.
At least one further flare was let off during the game, a friendly which Greece won 2-1 in front of 33,000 fans.
Police said they would prosecute anyone found to have “acted in complete disregard for the safety of other supporters”.
“Police will examine all available CCTV footage to identify and prosecute anyone found to be carrying or letting off flares,” a spokesman said.
The FFA also took a hard line, vowing bans from all football games in Australia for the “few reckless individuals who ignited flares in city streets and behaved in an anti-social manner”.
“FFA reiterates its firm position. We do not want these people at football matches in Australia,” it said in a statement.
“FFA will work with Victoria Police to identify the offenders and impose mandatory bans of five years on those found to have ignited flares.
“The vast majority of the 33,000 crowd brought credit to the game with their passionate support and we thank them for their attendance,” it added.
Football authorities have been cracking down hard on anti-social behaviour, with Melbourne Victory hit with a Aus$50,000 (US$36,000) fine and a suspended three-point penalty in February after fans let off flares during an A-League game.
Western Sydney Wanderers were slapped with similar punishment for the same offence, also in February.
In an open letter to the “football family” after those incidents, FFA chief David Gallop said he would do everything he could to rid the sport of hooliganism.
“Though small in number, their actions have cast a huge shadow over the game,” he said.
“What we are dealing with is not a cultural problem, but anti-social elements that use football as a platform for their idiotic behaviour.”
The trouble on Tuesday overshadowed a wonder-goal by Greek midfielder Giannis Maniatis, who scored from 60 metres, lobbing over the head of red-faced Australian goalkeeper Adam Federici, as Greece beat Australia for the time in 38 years.
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