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22 July, 2024
 
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Police had prior warning of Croatian hooligans ahead of soccer clash

Fatal clashes prompt UEFA to postpone Champions League qualifying game; Greek authorities criticized for operational lapses

Kathimerini Greece Newsroom

By Yiannis Souliotis

The police had been informed in time about the movements of the Croatian hooligans ahead of the Champions League qualifying game between AEK Athens and Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday, which was postponed by European governing soccer body UEFA after a 29-year-old Greek fan was fatally stabbed in overnight clashes between rival supporters in the Greek capital. Police failed to prevent the attack launched on AEK fans that led to the death of Michalis Katsouris, demonstrating blatant operational ineptitude.

Tellingly, the Sub-Directorate for Combating Sports Violence prepared a pre-match report 24 hours before the dramatic events that unfolded outside the Opap Arena. The 27-page document detailed the impending arrival of Croatian hooligans. An extract of the report seen by Kathimerini said that “it is considered possible that some of them will arrive in the city of Athens, with various flights in small groups, in order not to attract attention.”

“In order to avoid any police checks, however, several are expected to travel to Athens in minivans and vehicles via Montenegro and Albania,” the report stated.

According to the same report, police officials from the Sub-Directorate for Combating Sports Violence noted that Dinamo Zagreb hooligans clash with rival team fans using “improvised clubs, flares, and any other object suitable for attack.” Reports of the Bad Blue Boys’ (fanatical Dinamo fans) impending presence in Greece were also reflected in information bulletins issued by the Sub-Directorate for Combating Sports Violence.

The report said the Croatians were to be welcomed by Panathinaikos fans, with whom they are twinned, and some were to stay overnight at the team’s fan club on Alexandras Avenue.

The next two information bulletins were drawn up on Monday and were sent to the Hellenic Police (ELAS) and relevant agencies. The first reported that the organized AEK fans had been informed about the imminent arrival of Dinamo fans, which “caused a stir in their ranks.” The second stated that AEK fans had called for a meeting at the Opap Arena at 7 p.m. on Monday “under the pretext of distributing season tickets.”

Croatian and Montenegrin police had reportedly informed ELAS on the Bad Blue Boys’ movements. On Monday morning, the Interpol Montenegro alerted Albania and Greece about the movement of 100-120 dangerous hooligans with a list of their license plates. However, the reaction of the Hellenic Police Headquarters has been decried as inadequate, with police sources saying that only two vehicles with Croatian license plates were checked at the Kakavia border crossing.

What is certain is that a convoy of some 80 Croatians traveled down the Ionia Odos highway and continued along the Athens-Patra national highway before it was spotted by a civilian who informed the police. By the time it reached Attiki Odos its traces disappeared again. The hooligans were finally detected by police at the Irini and Perissos train stations in Athens, where they moved on foot toward the stadium. There were no riot squads outside the stadium. The only forces to arrive at the scene were officers of the rapid-response DRASI unit and a crime prevention OPKE unit. Other forces arrived about 30 minutes after the start of the clashes.

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Cyprus  |  Greece  |  sports

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