In the wake of an AEK Athens fan's tragic death, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has urgently called for the eradication of the "cancer of hooliganism" plaguing European football. His fervent plea comes as fan-related violence increasingly overshadows the sport's beauty and unifying power.
"Not Just a Greek Problem"
Ceferin’s impassioned message came during his attendance at the Super Cup match in Piraeus, featuring Manchester City and Sevilla. While the spotlight was set on the football giants, Ceferin took the opportunity to discuss the pressing issue with Greek authorities.
"This is the cancer of football and those are not football fans," Ceferin proclaimed, emphasizing the dire state of affairs. "We came to a position where we have to say enough... we have to stop this." Highlighting the magnitude of the problem, the UEFA head asserted that the epidemic of hooliganism isn’t restricted to Greece.
He urged European countries, institutions, and media to collaborate in a united front against football-related violence.
A Tragedy in Athens
The catalyst for these discussions, Michalis Katsouris, a 29-year-old AEK Athens enthusiast, met a tragic end.
Katsouris succumbed to injuries after a fatal stab wound to his hand. The violent altercation erupted between AEK and Dinamo Zagreb supporters, just before the Champions League qualifier near AEK's Nea Philadelphia stadium.
Following this horrific incident, officials postponed the match to August 19. With tensions running high, the Greek Prime Minister expressed concerns over the prospect of Greek teams facing temporary exclusion from European competitions.
He highlighted the onus on soccer team owners to prioritize the safety of their investments. Recent efforts by Greek authorities to curb such incidents led to the detainment of 105 individuals in connection to the Athens tragedy.
Investigations are in full swing, with Croatian fans’ cellphones being examined and DNA analysis underway. In a move towards ensuring enhanced safety, the Greek Prime Minister has garnered support from presidents of the country’s major clubs. They've reached a consensus on heightened police presence within stadiums and tighter control over entry points.