May 10 – The Greek Cup final between AEK and PAOK tomorrow will be played in an almost empty stadium following a government decision to ban fans for fear of crowd trouble.
It is not the first time another fear of crowd trouble has prompted government to step in for the Cup final – the 2015/16 final between AEK and Olympiacos was similarly closed to fans.
For all of the controversy and chaos that has plagued Greek football – from allegations of match-fixing, armed owners storming on to pitches to protest referee decision, to the intensely bitter political rivalry between clubs, owners the Greek federation – the past season has proved relatively calm.
PAOK won the Greek league and are going for a domestic double. It is the third consecutive time the clubs have met in the final. Both previous finals were won by PAOK. While the 2018 final passed relatively peacefully, the 2017 final was marred scenes of fan violence and fighting,
Deputy Minister of Culture and Sport Giorgos Vasiliadis said: “In the last two seasons, we have witnessed disgraceful scenes. The fact these two teams continue meeting in this competition has increased tensions. We saw this in Volos and at the OAKA. Our priority is to protect the safety of spectators. There is an unimaginable hatred shared by these two sets of fans. Yes, the clubs may want to have their fans inside the arena, but they are unable to control who receives tickets. In the past, police have prevented deaths from happening at the last minute. We cannot allow this situation to repeat itself.”
“Each club will be issued a maximum of 1,000 invitations,” continued Vasiliadis.
The tickets will go to sponsors, club officials and players’ families, leaving the rest of the 69,000-capacity stadium empty.
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