Two AEK Athens FC players, Yiannis Okkas and Mihalis Kasapis, were attacked yesterday as 150 masked supporters laid siege to the Greek club's training ground.
The rest of the AEK squad sought solace in the changing rooms as fans destroyed the club house, damaged cars and looted personal items. Supporters were venting their anger at the players' refusal to back a plan to rescue the club, reportedly €100m in debt, proposed by former striker Demis Nikolaidis, now at Club Atlético de Madrid
If AEK do not rectify their parlous financial position they could be relegated to the fourth division, prompting Nikolaidis to form a consortium with some businessmen which hoped to be granted liquidation on special terms. Greek law states that if 60 per cent of creditors agree to drop their claims then the remaining 40 per cent are forced to follow suit.
However, objections were raised to the plan, leading Nikolaidis's fellow Greek international Vassilios Tsiartas to call it "unethical". Disputed conditions included plans for players to accept huge wage cuts and accept just 30 per cent of the money owed to them in outstanding wages - they have reportedly not been paid for 18 months.
On Monday, Nikolaidis issued a statement which said the players' wages were too much and that his consortium could not afford to pay them, rendering his rescue attempt futile. Tsiartas felt the statement incited fans to attack the training facility. "I do not know how I am going to be able to face this man on national duty," Tsiartas said.
Nikolaidis countered: "I can understand that the players are shocked and they are justified in their reaction. They have every right to be angry as they are not to blame for the €8m which AEK owes them. I hope that when things cool down the players will understand my point of view.
I am totally against any acts of violence."
A number of AEK players are expected to be in Greece's squad for UEFA EURO 2004™, including captain Theodoros Zagorakis, Vassilios Lakis and Konstantinos Katsouranis. AEK are fourth in the Alpha Ethniki, a league which will be decided on Sunday.
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