FIFA delegation heads to Greece over football unrest

– Praise for Tsipras –

Savvidis, a 58-year-old tobacco industrialist and a former lawmaker with the party of Russian president Vladimir Putin, has applauded Tsipras for “protecting investors”.

“Hold onto Tsipras. He is a precondition for future success,” Savvidis said in May.

“When I saw his speech (in parliament) I felt exactly like when I heard Vladimir Putin in 2000. I want a president like that,” he said.

Flanked by bodyguards, Savvidis stormed onto the field in the 90th minute after a goal that would have given PAOK victory in the top-of-the-table clash was disallowed for offside.

Police have said Savvidis is not sought over the gun, for which he has a license, but for the pitch invasion, which is a misdemeanour offence not punishable in prison.

PAOK and AEK are in a neck-and-neck race for the Super League title, which would be the first for either team for more than two decades.

Tsipras has staked his political capital on resolving the crisis, insisting he would disregard any “political cost” to restore order to the league.

“We must all decide to ignore the political cost… It’s a question of will. Personally, I am determined to go ahead,” Tsipras said.

– Powerful figure –

Deputy sports minister Vassiliadis had said after an emergency meeting with Tsipras that the league would “not start again without a new framework agreed by all”.

Vassiliadis said the government was in close contact with European football body UEFA, which he said had been “shocked” by the incident.

He did not rule out the prospect of Greek clubs sitting out next season’s European competitions, but insisted the national team would not be affected.

FIFA said it “now expects appropriate measures to be taken, and rapidly”.

It warned a failure to take action “to eradicate” violence could lead to the suspension of the Greek association from the sport’s governing body.

Dubbed “Ivan the Terrible” by adoring PAOK fans, Savvidis has put the club from the northern port of Thessaloniki back in contention after decades of the championship being dominated by clubs from Athens.

Adding to the complications for the government, companies owned by Savvidis are the main sponsors of the Greek league.

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  1. DiRT March 13, 2018
    • Christopher Harris March 13, 2018

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