MIDFIELDER for Greek football side AEK Athens, Giorgos Katidis, has been banned from the national team for life by the country’s football federation EPO, after he celebrated a goal with a Nazi salute to supporters.
The 20-year-old, who previously captained Greece’s under-19 team, was given the ban in the wake of the salute in AEK Athens’s 2-1 win over Veria in the Super League competition.
“The player’s action to salute to spectators in a Nazi manner is a severe provocation, insults all the victims of Nazi bestiality and injures the deeply pacifist and human character of the game,” EPO said in statement.
Following the incident, which happened just a day before the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Greek Jews to Nazi concentration camps, Katidis was subjected to a barrage of criticism on Twitter and Facebook.
But AEK coach Ewald Lienen defended Katidis, who he says did not know the significance of his behaviour.
“I am 100 per cent sure that Giorgos did not know what he did,” Lienen said.
“He is a young kid who does not have any political ideas. He most likely saw such a salute on the inter- net or somewhere else and did it, without knowing what it means.”
Katidis was remorseful in a statement he later released, saying he takes full responsibility for his actions.
“I made the mistake so I will be the one to pay for it, AEK is not responsible,” Katidis said.
“Also, I understand fully the reasons for the decision made by the Greek Football Federation, to which I owe a huge apology as it has helped me to get where I am in the professional game.”