Greece suspends league after gun-toting PAOK owner enters fray

1 / 2
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)
2 / 2
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
0

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.


Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

Updated 18 June 2019
0

Chile open Copa America title defense with win over Japan

  • The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay
  • Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time

SAO PAULO: Chile’s experienced Copa America team proved too good for Japan’s young squad.

The two-time defending champions opened their Copa America campaign with a 4-0 win over the Asian guests on Monday, with Eduardo Vargas scoring a pair of goals to become Chile’s all-time leading scorer in the South American competition.

Erick Pulgar and Alexis Sanchez also scored for the titleholders, which are trying to become the first nation to win three straight Copa titles since Argentina in the late 1940s. Vargas scored twice in the second half to reach 12 goals with Chile in the tournament, two more than Enrique Hormazabal.

The victory moved Chile to the top of Group C along with Uruguay, which opened with a 4-0 win over Ecuador on Sunday.

“Chile has players who are very experienced, who know each other very well,” Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda said. “The challenge today was to avoid a bad debut. We were humble and entered with our feet on the ground. We were playing against a team that was very competitive in all sectors.”

Japan, playing as a Copa America guest for the second time, brought to Brazil a young squad focused on the Olympic tournament at home next year. The Japanese youngsters struggled against the veteran Chilean squad which was in control from the start at the Morumbi Stadium.

Chile won the last two editions of the Copa America, beating Argentina in penalty shootouts in the final both in 2015 and 2016. Argentina is the only team to have won three consecutive South American titles, from 1945-47.

Boosted by most of the 23,253 fans at the Morumbi, Chile created most of the significant chances.

After Pulgar headed in a corner-kick cross by Charles Aranguiz in the 41st minute, Vargas added to the lead with a shot from outside the area in the 54th after a pass by Mauricio Isla.

Sanchez found the net with a header in the 82nd, and Vargas closed the scoring about a minute later with a long lob shot over goalkeeper Keisuke Osako as he charged from his net.

It was a good opening match for Sanchez after a difficult season with Manchester United.

“I was coming off a difficult month-and-a-half,” said the 30-year-old Sanchez, who injured his ankle late in the season. “I struggled in the first 45 minutes, I felt tired, but I improved in the second half.”

Rueda, debuting with Chile in an official tournament, has been gradually revamping the squad since he took over in 2018. Among the veterans back from the team’s recent triumphs were Vargas, Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, who also had a good opener.

Japan last played in the Copa America in 1999, when it was eliminated in the group stage. Among the youngsters in Brazil was Takefusa Kubo, the 18-year-old who has joined Real Madrid’s “B” team for next season. He played from the start and was a threat for Japan in attack. He got an ovation from the crowd at the Morumbi after getting past a defender with a ball through his legs about 10 minutes into the match. He nearly scored after a nifty move past a defender inside the area in the 65th, but his shot hit the outside of the net. Japan had a few good chances to get on the board toward the end of the game but could not capitalize on them.