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SPORTS

Greek Police Step Up Hooligans Hunt, Raid Soccer Club Hangouts

ATHENS – New Democracy Interior Minister  Takis Theodorikakos said soccer teams should be responsible for growing violence by their hooligan fans, after Supreme Court Deputy Prosecutor Zacharias Kokkinakis also called for no tolerance and said it’s becoming a more serious crime.

That was in the wake of one suspect charged with murder in the stabbing death of 19-year-old student Alkis Kampanos in an assault by a gang of men said to be fans of the Thessaloniki team PAOK, notorious for violence.

Successive governments have long both tolerated soccer violence and allowed fans to bring flares and objects into games to be thrown onto the field, and simultaneously vowed to end it before backing away.

Greek soccer fans are fueled by hatred for each other but the teams are owned by influential wealthy businessmen, PAOK belong to Greek-Russian Ivan Savvidis, who carried a gun onto the field during a championship game and hasn’t been arrested four years after a warrant was issued for him.

Kokkinakis said that hooligans caught should be arrested on the spot, prosecuted within 30 days and made to actually go to prison instead of receiving lenient treatment.

But, even as he spoke, two men arrested during raids on fan clubs in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city and major port, were swiftly releaed after appearing in a criminal court.

The men – no one’s identified in Greece when charged with a crime unless they are politicians, celebrities or targets of influential critics – were accused

of illegal possession of weapons and of possession knives, crowbars, and metal and wooden batons, one for operating a fan club without a license.

that are often used in hooligan violence, including outside stadiums.

WEAPONS OF MALICE

Kokkinakis said that the soccer fan-based crime and violence has spread outside stadiums that are limited to 10 percent capacity under COVID-19 health restrictions and spreading to the streets, said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency AMNA.

tated that due to Covid-19-related restrictions, fan-based violence has spread  Theodorikakos noted that the fan clubs have verifiable membership registers and he told TV stations Alpha and SKAI that the clubs should not be allowed to use the name of a sports club to create hooligan gangs.

“The fan clubs should be subject to constant inspections,” Theodorikakos said, similar to previous problems by governments not carried out once the headlines died away.

Police raided even more fan clubs, including in Athens, looking for more evidence of crime and searching for more suspects in Kambanos’ killing but no one was detained, said Kathimerini.

Kampanos was attacked along with two friends by a group of at least 10 individuals with knives and rods, for which a 23-year-old with a previous record of violence – who wasn’t prosecuted – was charged with murder but not identified.

Kokkinakis issued a circular stating that when there are several perpetrators involved in a sports violence incident they should be investigated on whether their acts constitute the formation of a criminal organization.

Another prosecutor, Konstantinos Spyropoulos is looking into fan violence in Athens, the paper said, with police raiding four headquarters and finding knives, helmets, sticks and other dangerous weapons.

Police sources not named told the paper that the primary target was another PAOK fan club in Athens – although the team is in Thessaloniki – and that 13 hangouts and clubs were raided.

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