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AFP
January 29, 2020

Greek PM axes Eurodeputy in soccer ownership row

World

AFP
January 29, 2020

ATHENS: A Greek sporting hero was kicked out of the ruling New Democracy party´s Eurodeputy group on Tuesday, the government said, amid an ongoing row involving the country´s two top football clubs.

Theodoros Zagorakis, the captain of Greece´s victorious Euro 2004 squad, was axed hours after criticising a sports commission recommendation threatening to relegate his former club PAOK. "The government cannot be blackmailed," government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.

"By order of the prime minister, Eurodeputy Theodoros Zagorakis has been stricken from the lists of the New Democracy party."

The Greek professional sports commission on Monday had recommended the relegation of PAOK and another top-flight club, Xanthi, amid allegations of common ownership. It is now up to the Greek football league to decide if it agrees with the recommendation. Zagorakis, a former PAOK chairman and club legend serving a second term at the European parliament, on Monday dismissed the commission´s recommendation as a "farce" and threatened to turn independent.

The original complaint was put forward by Olympiakos FC, which is locked in a title race with PAOK. There is also bad blood between the clubs´ respective owners, Olympiakos´ Vangelis Marinakis and PAOK´s Ivan Savvidis.The Thessaloniki club has denied the allegations and accuses the minister for sport, Lefteris Avgenakis, of manipulating the commission´s recommendation to benefit Olympiakos. "The sole purpose was to tarnish the history of PAOK, the team that finally put an end to Olympiakos´ domination," PAOK said in a statement."They tried several times to exterminate PAOK and in every attempt they found themselves deeper in the mud." "Avgenakis proved to be the representative of the Olympiakos press office, setting up the case," the PAOK statement added. "We demand that the Prime Minister remove him immediately as he is dangerous to the sport."