Listen Now

Greece Suspends Soccer League After Team Owner Invades Field With Gun

Mar 12, 2018

Greece has suspended indefinitely its Super League after the team owner of PAOK walked onto the pitch apparently carrying a gun in a holster to protest a referee's call in a match against AEK.

It happened in the final few seconds of Sunday's game in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, after PAOK player Fernando Varela scored a goal that was subsequently tossed out by a referee. The teams had been tied up till that point.

As The Associated Press reported, "FIFA urged Greek authorities to take swift action against PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis or face as possible suspension."

The country's deputy minister for sport, Giorgos Vasileiadis, told the wire service that games would not start up again "if there is not a new, clear framework agreed to by all so we can move forward with conditions and regulations."

Savvidis looks very angry and has to be held back by bodyguards, but he does not appear to remove the apparent weapon from his holster during the chaotic scenes. He was initially wearing a jacket but later removed it, providing a clear view of what looks like a gun. Here's a video of the melee from The Guardian:

According to the Telegraph, AEK coach Manolo Jimenez told a Spanish radio station that Savvidis threatened the referee.

"I'm stunned; I don't understand it. It's the type of thing you expect to see in a Clint Eastwood movie," the opposing coach added.

PAOK issued a statement after the incident, saying that Savvidis "is preparing to take all necessary steps to protect the club and all his executives and associates from the threats and attacks they are suffering." It did not elaborate on what threats or attacks they are suffering and what steps he would deem necessary.

The BBC reports that Savvidis, a businessman, is one of the richest men in Greece. He "was born in Georgia of Greek heritage and is a former member of the Russian parliament."

A spokeswoman for Greece's police, Ioanna Rotziokou, told The New York Times that an arrest warrant has been issued for Savvidis and some of his bodyguards. She added that Savvidis "is a legal gun-carrier," but the warrant was issued for invading the field.

Vasileiadis, the deputy sports minister, told the AP that this comes as Greece is trying to clean up its football sector.

"We have won a lot, but much more remains to be done," Vasileiadis 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."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit