ATHENS (Reuters) - Fans of Greek Cup finalists AEK Athens and PAOK clashed with police outside the Olympic stadium ahead of the game on Saturday as the country faces a potential soccer ban.
About 5,000 officers were deployed to safeguard the game between champions AEK and league runners-up PAOK, a repeat of last year’s final at which fans also clashed.
Police had to use tear gas to keep the fan groups apart after about 35,000 spectators began arriving at the stadium two hours ahead of kick-off. Fans threw stones and lit fires before police managed to contain the trouble.
A league match between the teams in March was abandoned after a controversial refereeing decision prompted the PAOK President to charge on to the pitch with a handgun in his belt.
This led to the suspension of the league for more than two weeks and a warning from world soccer’s governing body FIFA for Greece to reform immediately or risk being handed an international ban.
PAOK and their President Ivan Savvidis were subsequently also sanctioned and the team had points deducted, ending their title hopes.
Greece is also facing a potential international ban from FIFA, which will next month discuss the state of football in the country.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editin by Ed Osmond