In a tradition unlike any other, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos met for the Greek League title, which can only mean one thing: The final game ended in fans firing flares at the rival team.
With two minutes left in the decisive tilt of a five-game championship series and Panathinaikos leading 66-49, Olympiakos fans began shooting flares at the visiting team’s bench, setting off a fire and forcing the evacuation of (you can’t make this stuff up) Peace and Friendship Stadium.
The scene of players continuing the game as explosions go off around them was surreal:
El vergonzoso final del Olympiacos-Panathinaikos. El infierno era eso pic.twitter.com/G2Vf5wnmcf
— Daniel Barranquero (@danibarranquero) June 11, 2017
Eventually, players retreated to the locker rooms for a 25-minute hiatus before resuming the game in front of an empty arena and playing the final two minutes of a 66-51 Panathinaikos win.
The history of violent Greek League basketball fandom goes way back. More than two decades ago, the Chicago Tribune detailed their use of flares and fireworks in stadiums, children spitting on players, spectators throwing coins and doorknobs on the court, and a stabbing that forced the postponement of a game. One coach even described a time when rival fans tore plumbing pipes from the bathroom and hurled them onto the floor. This league is not for the faint of heart.
FIBA’s president at the time described Greece as “the black sheep of basketball.”
If this story sounds familiar, that’s because Olympiakos fans did the exact same thing in 2013, only then they also injured a Panathinaikos player before tip-off by shooting a firework at his leg.
Greece Final: Olympiacos-Panathinaikos.
Objects identified hit the court… pic.twitter.com/vZeAVovfse
— Sportando (@Sportando) June 12, 2013
And if that sounds familiar, maybe it’s because Olympiakos fans also did the same in 2010, when fans threw flares at Panathinaikos players and coaches as they exited the building.
Either Panathinaikos or Olympiakos has won all but one Greek League title since 1993, so fans of the two rival teams have had plenty of opportunities to wreak havoc. The violence has gotten so bad that visiting fans are no longer allowed to attend games, for fear of yet another stabbing.
Here’s another novel idea: Maybe don’t allow home fans to bring flares into the stadium.
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