If you ever wanted to know what would happen if the president of a soccer team walked onto the pitch during a match while armed with a gun, this is your lucky day.
On Sunday, a match between two Greek Superleague teams, PAOK Salonika and AEK Athens, was suspended when the president and owner of PAOK Salonika, Ivan Savvides, stalked onto the pitch while armed with a gun. According to Reuters, The gun was holstered around his waist, and he was surrounded by bodyguards.
Savvides is one of Greece’s richest men, and a former member of the Russian Parliament. He came onto the pitch near the end of the game, after a PAOK Salonika goal was disallowed in the 89th minute. The gun was visible, but he never drew it as he complained to the referee about the goal.
It was actually the second time Savvides had invaded the pitch during the match. The first time he was wearing an overcoat, and AEK Athens officials claimed that Savvides threatened a referee. The second time the overcoat was gone, which revealed a holstered gun around his waist. Not surprisingly, this caused a bit of a hubbub. Savvides had already ordered his team to leave the pitch, and everyone else was ordered to disperse once the gun was identified and the game was suspended.
Greek soccer has been beset by violence both on and off the pitch. A match between PAOK Salonika and Olympiakos Piraeus was called off in February after the Olympiakos coach was struck by a “roll of paper” thrown from the stands. After this latest incident, Greek Deputy Culture and Sports Minister Georgios Vassiliadis stood by the suspension. From Reuters:
“We have decided to interrupt the championship … It won’t start again unless there is a clear framework, agreed by all, to move forward with conditions and rules.”
Vassiliadis also said the suspension will be indefinite until everyone involved agrees to “much tighter rules on issues of security.”
Despite the firearm, PAOK Salonika was eventually declared the winner of the match two hours after the suspension when the referee reversed his decision. Hopefully the gun played no role in that.