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Society

Greece Goes Gangbusters on Thessaloniki Soccer Hooligan Violence

THESSAlONIKI – The murder of a 19-year-old student in Greece’s second-largest city Thessaloniki, for which a 23-year-old soccer fanatic was charged – has spurred a government assault on hooligan violence.

Alkis Kambanos died after being stabbed in the thigh with a curved karambit knife as he and three friends were attacked by a gang of at least 10 people who pulled up in two cars, got out and demanded to know which team they backed. Two of Kambanos’ friends were also attacked and injured.

The investigation is ongoing to find the other participants in the attack but while the suspect was charged in the killing, it remains unclear who stabbed the victim, the paper said.

Thessaloniki is home to Aris and the especially notorious PAOK, owned by Greek-Russian Ivan Savvidis who has had an unserved warrant out for his arrest for four years for carrying a gun onto the field during a game.

The suspect, charged with homicide, was said to belong to the Thyra 4 Palaion Patron Germanou Street PAOK fan club and has a history of violence-related offenses, including charges of assault with a bladed weapon in 2019 near the scene of the murder, but wasn’t prosecuted then.

The murder of Kambanos set off such fury though that Greek police, whose proclamation of a crackdown on organized crime has fizzled out, raided fan clubs associated with both teams in Thessaloniki and Athens.

The police investigation focused its attention on the PAOK Makedones club and on the association of PAOK fans in Stavroupoli, said Kathimerini, reporting that while authorities didn’t reveal information that it appeared a large cache of of confiscated items, including weapons, were seized.

That came after an earlier raid on the Thyra 4 club of PAOK, where it was said the suspect went with three other people after the fatal attack.

The newspaper said law enforcement authorities have video footages showing the alleged perpetrator and the three others entering the club. “The 23-year-old was so flustered that he got out of the car without pulling the handbrake,” an official at the Citizens’ Protection Ministry said.

Other video footage released by a news site showed suspects running from the scene of the attack to a getaway car and neighbors alerted police to where the alleged murder weapon was thrown.

Besides murder, the suspect – who was not named under Greek privacy laws forbidding it – was charged with intent, attempted homicide, assault with the aggravating provisions of the law on sports law, carrying and using weapons, given until Feb. 7 to present his defense.

He was also sentenced to four years in prison over the items found at the soccer fan office, including knives, wooden and metal bats, helmets and lead pipes. He claimed he was not a member of the association but police found keys for its door on him.

One of the two people who were injured in the attack told police they recognized the 23-year-old, saying he was holding a crowbar and one of the cars seen in the video belonged to the suspect.

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