ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek league rivals Panathinaikos and Olympiakos had their soccer game abandoned on Sunday after fans from host Panathinaikos clashed with police outside Athens’ Olympic Stadium, and attempted to attack the Olympiakos bench inside the stadium.
With tear gas heavily used as police tried to get back control, referee Marco Fritz of Germany stopped play after 70 minutes. He called the game off for good a half-hour later, saying the stadium had not been made sufficiently safe with lingering tear gas forcing Panathinaikos fans close to the field itself.
Most of the 25,000 Panathinaikos fans who attended the game had already left the stadium, affected by the tear gas. Visiting fans are not allowed at Greek league games for fear of violence.
Olympiakos was leading 1-0 at the time the game was abandoned.
The game was first interrupted in the sixth minute, when about 30 Panathinaikos fans, some masked, entered the field and attacked the Olympiakos bench before police intervened. The fans targeted Olympiakos spokesman Costas Karapapas, who defended himself by pushing back.
No arrests were made, and no serious injuries reported, but Olympiakos claimed at least one fan was carrying a knife. The referee added 13 minutes to first-half play.
A fan also tried to attack Karapapas at halftime, jumping out of the stands, but was restrained.
Fans attacked police outside the stadium, the main venue for the 2004 Athens Olympics, soon after Olympiakos’ Miguel Angel Guerrero scored in the 53rd minute. They used firebombs and police replied with tear gas, whose fumes soon spread inside the stadium and onto the field. This caused fans inside to start shifting seats, with some spilling onto the track around the pitch. At this point the referee interrupted the game for the second and final time.
Some fans who had clashed earlier with police were seen coming in and out of the stadium without hindrance, and were jeered by the majority of Panathinaikos supporters.
Panathinaikos, now seventh in the league with five rounds to go, will be deducted three points — six if there has been injury or damage to people and property outside the stadium — according to league rules, with Olympiakos set to be awarded a 3-0 win. This would effectively end any hope for Panathinaikos of a place in next season’s Europa League. With the win, Olympiakos is seven points behind leader PAOK.
Panathinaikos released a statement later Sunday, condemning the violence and blaming it on a “handful of disrespectful fans.” It also contended that the referee failed to request the evacuation of the stadium and did not wait long enough before deciding to abandon the game.
This was the latest hostile episode between Greece’s two largest clubs, which has always existed and crosses sports but appears to have escalated lately.
On Saturday, Olympiakos forfeited a scheduled basketball game against Panathinaikos. Ever since it abandoned a Basketball Cup semifinal at halftime last month — after complaining of harassment at Panathinaikos’ Athens Olympic Arena — Olympiakos has said it will only play Panathinaikos with foreign referees, as in soccer. This is not allowed by the basketball league’s bylaws.
Being its second forfeiture this season, Olympiakos, a Euroleague basketball powerhouse, faces relegation to Greece’s A2 League. The club’s owners have put out feelers to the Adriatic League, an international professional league of countries from the former Yugoslavia, which has also handed “wild card” invitations to clubs from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Israel.
When Olympiakos forfeited the cup game, Panathinaikos owner Dimitris Giannakopoulos appeared to try and goad the opposition by placing women’s underwear on Olympiakos’ empty bench.
In water polo, about 30 Panathinaikos fans, wearing motorcycle helmets and carrying flares, clubs and knives, burst into a women’s game on March 2 between Olympiakos and Glyfada and started hitting people indiscriminately, including children. Two serious injuries were reported. The game will resume Tuesday.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports