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UEFA chief says football must ‘eliminate cancer’ of hooliganism

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin on Wednesday urged European football to “eliminate the cancer” of hooliganism. 

Ceferin was speaking in Athens in the wake of last week’s fatal stabbing of a fan ahead of a Champions League qualifier.

“The problem of violence and hooliganism is not just Greek, it is European,” he told a joint press conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. 

“I call on everyone at a European level to eliminate this cancer”, he added. 

AEK Athens fan Michalis Katsouris, 29, died after being stabbed during violent clashes on the eve of Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb’s qualifier at AEK near the Greek club’s stadium in Nea Filadelfia, a western suburb of Athens.

Last Tuesday’s match was then postponed by UEFA until 19 August.

“We will do everything in our power to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again,” said Ceferin.

On Sunday, the Greek courts charged 105 people with involvement in the incidents and remanded them in custody. The accused include 102 Croatians, suspected of being linked to the Bad Blue Boys, a Dinamo Zagreb ultra group.

“The guilty parties will be found and punished for this murder,” said the Greek prime minister, who also called for a “European mechanism to tackle violence in stadiums and punish it effectively.”

Mitsotakis also emphasised that he had agreed with the four chairmen of the main Greek clubs that “the police should operate in the stadiums and be able to control entry”. 

“But violence is not just in the stadiums, it is also on the streets, and we need to fight it collectively”, he added. 

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