OM: What reception should the Marseillais expect in the hell of Toumba?

They promised an afternoon to shake from the calves to the Marseilles. The PAOK club, from Thessaloniki, a city located in the north of Greece, hosts this Thursday night Marseille Olympics in the second leg of the quarterfinals of the Europa League Conference (9:00 p.m.), at its Toumba stadium.

Their coach, Razvan Lusescu, warned them after the first leg, won 2-1 by OM: “Of course Marseille are favourites, but it won’t be easy for them to play us. I hope that Marseille is well received the way we were received here, I am very disappointed with what I saw today. For football it is not acceptable ”, he accused, when incidents had been unleashed since the day before in Marseille, between Greek and Marseille fans, and between Greek fans and the police. This Wednesday, gave him a capeensuring “no regret” of these statements.

“Lots of weird symbols on its stands”

An amazing communication, but not so much when you know a bit about PAOK and its fiery president Ivan Savvidis. He made himself known by entering the field armed in 2018, unhappy with an arbitration decision against AEK Athens. Which earned him a three-year ban in the stadiums of Greece. This close friend of Vladimir Putin – a member of his party – was also sentenced to twenty-five months in prison, suspended in February, before appealing this decision.

The first leg in Marseille also recalled the volcanic character of the PAOK supporters, and in particular of Gate 4 of the Toumba stadium, known for his nationalist movement. “There are quite a few strange symbols on their stands. At first I thought they were affiliated with Partizan Belgrade because of their colors, when there seems to be an ideology behind them. But it happens in many Greek clubs, which have taken the wrong direction”, explains Ricardo Faty, who played for two years at Aris Thessaloniki, PAOK’s rival club, “very much on the left”, according to the midfielder.

On February 1, the PAOK ultras stabbed to death a 19-year-old, fan of Aris Thessaloniki. And members of Grobari, the main group of Partizan Belgrade supporters behind the death of Toulouse fan Brice Taton in 2009, were present at the Vélodrome stadium last Thursday, along with members of Gate 4. All but choirboys. , Thus.

“Anarchists and Nationalists”

For Kostas Petrotos, a Greek journalist who follows PAOK, Gate 4, which “gathers some 8,000 supporters”, is difficult to define. “You find all layers of society, racists, nationalists, but also leftists. After all, they only define themselves as PAOK fans. Although some are more anarchist and others more nationalist”, he said.

But the nationalists seem to be taking a growing share among PAOK supporters, ultimately like Greek society. “I left Greece almost 10 years ago, so I am not very familiar with the latest trends, but nationalism has made very strong inroads. In my time the PAOK fans were already known for that, and there were already enough problems at that time. It is a bit of the recurring evil of Greek football, it lets itself go too much”, said Ricardo Faty.

“Since the economic crisis of 2010, there has been a sharp rise in nationalism at that time. They became very important. They returned to government, before murdering a far-left activist and losing popularity”, adds Kostas Petrotos.

sold out game

For the reception of OM, without its followers at the request of the Greek authorities, the Toumba stadium will be filled with 30,000 followers, for the first time since the clash against Olympiakos, in February 2020, the covid forces. “The stadium will be full, it is a very important game to make history. There will be no fans from Marseille, so the fans must be calm”, believes the journalist. Gate 4 members have also released a press release calling for the atmosphere to be the same everywhere in the stadium as it is at Gate 4, while asking that nothing be thrown onto the pitch.

For Ricardo Faty, the atmosphere of the Toumba stadium is hostile, but not impressive. “It’s an open stadium, not like Galatasaray where you really have a cauldron effect. The atmosphere is awesome, there’s a good vibe, but it’s not the biggest vibe I’ve ever experienced. On the other hand, when we won there in 2010, the first victory in 10 years, we had to stay in the locker room for 2 hours because the fans didn’t want to let us out”, recalls the midfielder. Let us hope that Dimitri Payet can at least take corners.

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