Champions League game off after fatal stabbing in Athens

Greek fan dies and 88 arrests made after fighting ahead of match between AEK and Dinamo Zagreb

A man lights a candle at a makeshift memorial at the place where a Greek football fan was stabbed to death in Athens. AFP
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A 29-year-old fan was killed in overnight clashes between rival supporters in the Greek capital Athens, prompting Uefa to postpone Tuesday's Champions League qualifying game between AEK Athens and Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb.

Eight fans were also injured in the extensive clashes outside AEK’s stadium on Monday night, while Greek police said they had made 88 arrests, mostly of Croatian supporters. Amateur video of the incident showed chaotic scenes, with fans hurling flares and petrol bombs and clashing with wooden bats.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic called his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis to express his condemnation of the violence, with the Croatian government describing the clashes as “horrific".

Fans gathered at the site of the fan’s death on Tuesday, leaving flowers, candles and black-and-yellow AEK football scarves at the makeshift roadside shrine.

After the fan's death, Greek authorities had requested that all supporters should be excluded from the match at the Opap Arena. Dinamo fans were officially already excluded under a previous ruling by Uefa.

AEK fan Kyriakos Mantzakidis, who runs a sports blog, said police should have prevented scores of Croatian fans from travelling to Athens.

“This was a murderous attack against ordinary people. Many of the people gathered in this area were not soccer fans,” Mantzakidis said. “It is a failure of the government to plan properly. It was a good decision to postpone the game. The atmosphere was too tense.”

Seven Greek police officers were suspended pending an internal investigation, government officials said, while a senior public prosecutor launched an official inquiry into the deadly clashes. Uefa says what was going to be the second leg in Zagreb next Wednesday will now be the first leg. The second leg will be held in Athens on August 18 or 19.

“Uefa deplores in the strongest possible terms the appalling incidents that took place in Athens last night and resulted in the loss of a life,” it said in a statement. "While expressing our deepest sympathy to the family of the victim, to AEK Athens FC and its fans, we would like to reiterate that violence has no place in our sport and we expect that those responsible for this terrible act be arrested and consigned to justice in the shortest delay.

“Following yesterday’s violence and in consultation with the local authorities, Uefa has decided that the conditions for the match between AEK Athens FC and GNK Dinamo to go ahead tonight are not met.”

The clashes came in the week before Manchester City and Sevilla fans come to Athens for the Uefa Super Cup. The game is being played at the Olympiakos stadium near the port city of Piraeus.

The AEK Athens stadium also will host a Uefa showpiece game this season – the final of the Europa Conference League next May.

Updated: August 08, 2023, 1:40 PM