Greece suspends league after gun-toting PAOK owner enters fray

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Russian-born Greek businessman and owner of PAOK Thessaloniki, Ivan Savvidis, center, toting a holstered gun, enters the field of play after the referee disallowed a PAOK goal during a match against AEK Athens at the Toumba Stadium in Thessaloniki. (Reuters)
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PAOK president Ivan Savvidis, left, takes to the pitch carrying a handgun in his waistband, after the referee ruled out a last minute PAOK goal during the Greek Superleague match between PAOK Thessaloniki and AEK Athens in Thessaloniki. The match at PAOK’s Toumba stadium was subsequently abandoned. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2018
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Greece suspends league after gun-toting PAOK owner enters fray

ATHENS, Greece: Greece indefinitely suspended its soccer league on Monday, a day after the gun-toting owner of PAOK Thessaloniki marched onto the field following a disputed goal at the end of a match.
Sports Minister Giorgos Vasileiadis, speaking after meeting with the prime minister, said league play was suspended and would not restart “if there is not a new, clear framework agreed to by all so we can move forward with conditions and regulations.”
PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis walked onto the field twice accompanied by bodyguards, and appeared to be carrying a pistol in a holster around his waist. He made no move to use the weapon at any time.
Fernando Varela had just scored in the 90th minute of Sunday’s match between PAOK and AEK Athens, putting the hosts ahead 1-0 in the northern city of Thessaloniki. The referee signaled a goal but then seemed to disallow it for offside. The match was eventually abandoned.
Police said earlier Monday they were investigating Savvidis, who holds a gun license, for illegal entry onto the field and for possession of an object that could cause harm in a sporting venue.
Tatyana Gordina, the deputy CEO in charge of corporate communications at Savvidis’ Russia-based Agrocom Group, stressed Savvidis had not made any threatening gestures.
“There were no threats made by Ivan Savvidis, especially not involving the use of a weapon, during yesterday’s match,” she said. “There was an emotional walk out onto the field, probably a breach of sporting regulations, and nothing more. Most of the headlines in the Greek press exaggerate the facts.”
FIFA criticized Savvidis’ move.
“First of all, FIFA fully condemns such behavior,” the sport’s governing body said in a statement. “Given that this incident occurred in the context of a national competition, any disciplinary measure to be imposed falls under the jurisdiction of the deciding bodies of the Greek FA.”
European soccer’s governing body also condemned “the recent incidents in Greek football.” UEFA added that because the incidents “occurred in a domestic competition, any disciplinary measure to be imposed falls under the jurisdiction of the relevant bodies of the Hellenic Football Federation.”
Vasileiadis said Greek sporting authorities were “in open contact with UEFA” and would be holding meetings with the Greek soccer federation later Monday to discuss further moves.
“The government for the past three years has given great battles to manage to clean up the troubled football sector. We have won a lot, but much more remains to be done,” the minister said. “In any case, we will not allow all this effort to be endangered, we will not allow phenomena of the past to be resurrected.”
Savvidis, who took over PAOK in 2012, is a Russian-Greek businessman born in Georgia during the Soviet era who made his money with the privatization of a cigarette factory in southern Russia in the 1990s. His Agrocom company has extensive interests in tobacco, agriculture and real estate. He spent two terms in the Russian parliament between 2003 and 2011.


Virgil van Dijk sets sights on an awesome foursome of trophies for Liverpool

Updated 20 September 2018
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Virgil van Dijk sets sights on an awesome foursome of trophies for Liverpool

LIVERPOOL: Virgil van Dijk wants to create history with Liverpool this season as he set his sights on an unprecedented quadruple of trophies.
The Anfield outfit are full of confidence after recording six successive wins at the start of a season for the first time since 1961.
Having reached the Champions League final in the previous campaign, they opened up this one with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Paris Saint-Germain thanks to an injury-time strike from Roberto Firmino after the French champions had pulled back a two-goal deficit.
While pundits have suggested Liverpool should prioritize the Premier League, van Dijk said they have the belief to do even better.
“Everyone is excited, feeling good, wanted to be part of this,” he said. “We know the season is very long, four competitions to play and we want to win everything. That’s basically our mindset. You need to have ambitions.
“With the size of this club, the people around here and with the history, we want to try to win everything. It’s going to be hard, we know it’s something very difficult to do, but we are going to try. That’s what we are here for.
“I’ve enjoyed every bit since I arrived here and hope to keep going. I want to win things, create memories here and write history as well with all of these boys.”
The Dutch defender also feels rivals will see Liverpool as contenders for the big prizes having overcome Neymar and Co.
“We were not in the [Champions League] final last season for no reason,” he added. “I think we should have already got the respect, but this season is new.
“Everyone starts over and we need to show it in every game. We need to keep going, keep improving, but also enjoy it. It’s the highest stage.
“If you are going to be on the pitch and you don’t believe it [that you can beat teams like this] then you need to stay home. You need to believe in your team. I have the belief. I’m enjoying it. You want to play in these games, you want to play these clubs. I think it’s a great time to be a Liverpool player.
“If you look at the team, the whole squad, players who are not even in there and have so much potential, so much quality, it says a lot about our team.”