Greek football’s ban from all international competitions due to the government’s suspension of the Greek Cup appears closer than ever after the fruitless meeting Deputy Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis had with a common delegation from the international and European soccer-governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA, in Athens on Wednesday.
Kontonis sticks to his decision to suspend the competition, following fan clashes with police that had the PAOK vs Olympiakos game in Thessaloniki abandoned a month ago, although it is the verdict of the Council of State next week that will eventually determine the continuation or not of the tournament.
“There was no agreement, but we were told that the federation is willing to withdraw its case from the Council of State. The government and the ministry are not afraid of the CoS decision,” said Kontonis.
The head of the international federations’ delegation, Cypriot Costakis Koutsokoumnis threatened that the national team and the clubs would be excluded from all international competitions, but showed a speck of optimism saying he hoped the minister would be given a one-week period to reverse his decision, instead of Friday’s deadline. The Council of State will hear the case of the Cup, brought by the Greek federation, on April 5.
“The Cup will have to restart by April 1. Apparently, this will not be implemented. We will report what happened to the executive body of FIFA and it will make its decisions,” Koutsokoumnis, also the head of the Cypriot federation, said after Wednesday’s meeting at the General Secretariat for Sports. “I hope a week is given for the minister to revise [his decision], otherwise the news will not be good. FIFA will see the Hellenic Football Federation out … If the Cup does not start and the federation is banned, then there will be no national team or clubs in international competitions, nor will Greek officials be able to participate in international institutions and meetings. Greece will also lose a team in the Europa League.”
He went on to propose that the Cup be played behind closed doors and with foreign referees, saying: “We could arrange for a foreign referee if the teams want that. In out view that would be enough to justify the lifting of the decision. The minister will discuss that, but he awaits to see [some progress] from the federation, too.”
Kontonis tried to rid the government of the responsibility for what is dubbed “football’s Grexit”, putting the blame squarely on the federation: “The FIFA decision will concern the exit of the federation, which has begun all this process. The problem can be resolved by the federation itself, it should take the initiatives for a rotten situation to come to an end. The government cannot impose its will on it. The problem is in its hands and if it wants it can resolve it in a very small period of time.”
Koutsokoumnis added that FIFA would understand it if the government decided to stop all competitions including the league (and not just the Cup), as that would have been on the grounds of social unrest. Kontonis commented that “when you hear representatives of the international federations saying that maybe the league should be suspended too, or that foreign referees should come, this constitutes acceptance of what we have pointed out.”