ATHENS: The president of Greek club PAOK on Tuesday apologised after storming onto the pitch with a holstered gun tucked in his belt, an incident that prompted the indefinite suspension of the championship.
“I am very sorry over what happened. I clearly had no right to enter the field of play in this fashion,” Greek-Russian businessman Ivan Savvidis said in a statement.Savvidis was on the run for 24 hours after an arrest warrant was issued following Sunday’s incident.
FIFA is demanding swift results in the attempt to restore order, the latest in years of initiatives to stamp out violence and murky dealings in Greece’s most popular sport.
Savvidis himself said on Tuesday that Greek football is “completely sick.”“Despite attacks at all levels, I will continue to fight for fair football and honourable refereeing in all matches, so that games are won on the pitch and not in courtrooms,” he said.
He denied claims that he had bickered with the referee and an official from PAOK’s opponents, AEK Athens, and claimed his foray onto the pitch at his club’s Toumba stadium was solely aimed at preventing violence from breaking out.
“My only aim was to protect tens of thousands of PAOK fans from provocation, clashes, human victims,” he said, even though, owing to a ban on away fans, only home supporters were present.
The diminutive, bearded Savvidis was pictured jaw to jaw with AEK’s head of football operations, while PAOK’s technical director Lubos Michel — a Slovak former FIFA referee — is believed to have threatened match referee Yiorgos Kominis.
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.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.