Ex-Greece skipper Zagorakis blasts near-empty stadium for Cup final

Soccer
Soccer

Athens - Greece's Euro 2004-winning captain Theodoros Zagorakis lashed out at the country's government on Tuesday after it announced this weekend's Cup final will be played in front of only a handful of supporters in a bid to stop fan violence.

Two of Zagorakis' former teams, AEK Athens and PAOK Thessaloniki, will meet at Athens' Olympic Stadium on Saturday, but have only been allowed to invite up to 220 fans and family members each as authorities were unable to ensure fan safety.

Six-hundred other tickets will be made available for the federation to distribute.

Zagorakis is now a member of the European Parliament for the main opposition conservative New Democracy party.

"A Cup final celebration does not exist without fans nor is football upgraded with closed doors. I have learned to play in full stadiums and I wish the current decision is the last one of its kind," the 47-year-old Zagorakis posted on his Facebook account.

Originally, Deputy Sports Minister Giorgos Vassiliadis wanted 1,500 spectators (500 from each team and 500 for the Greek federation) to attend, but the police insisted the number be reduced.

The two sides have met in the last two finals which were marked both times by violence between supporters and police.

"Three years ago, the government decided to organise the first Greek Cup final without the presence of fans," Zagorakis said.

"Three years later the same government comes again with the logic 'we put a padlock on everything' to 'criminalise' at the expense of the fans and the sport.

"Greek football is in need of crowded stadiums and not empty seats."

The move means the vast majority of PAOK supporters will be unable to attend a match that could see their team attempt to win their first ever domestic double.

They won their first league title in over three decades last month, and on Sunday became just the second team in Greek football history to finish the season undefeated.

Zagorakis played for the Greek national team from 1994 to 2007, earning 120 caps and scoring three goals.

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