The Dark Side of PAOK: A Look at the Notorious Supporters Behind the Club’s Fanatical Reputation

They are famous and infamous. PAOK’s supporters are known far beyond Greece as fanatical, loud and loyal – playing there will be hell for Club Brugge, they say. But a particularly dark shadow also hangs over the charms.

Football fans who were once there will never forget the experience.

PAOK home games in the Toumba Stadium are by no means memorable due to the pomp and splendor of the modest stadium. Because of what is happening in the stands.

A hurricane of sound produced by more than 28,000 fans for 90 minutes. Often accompanied by Bengali fireworks around the entire stadium – an impressive ‘Ring of Fire’.

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When the late Diego Maradona visited Napoli in 1988, he said without batting an eyelid: “I have played many matches, but I have never experienced this.”

If anyone can know…

Deadly lows

Club Brugge will soon have a particularly hot European evening in Thessaloniki.

Especially after the events of last week. PAOK hooligans then entered into a fierce clash with the Belgian police around Jan Breydel, after which the Greeks filed a complaint for “racist violence”. Possible retaliation in the future cannot be ruled out.

In that area, PAOK already has a pitch-black reputation.

In recent years there have been several fatal incidents that have cast a dark shadow over football in Thessaloniki.

In January 2020, Tosko Bozadjiiski – a Bulgarian fan of Botev Plovdiv, who has close ties to Greek club Aris – died after PAOK hooligans beat him up and ran him over with a car.

Two years later a new low followed with a fatal outcome.

On February 1, 2022, 19-year-old Aris supporter Alkis Kabanos was hanging around the stadium of his favorite club with some friends.

Suddenly, three cars with 12 occupants arrived – all ultras from PAOK, who had not come to fraternize. In an inhumane attack lasting 66 seconds, Kabanos suffered more than 30 injuries, including several fatal stab wounds.

A teenager murdered in cold blood because he supported the wrong club.

The crime sent shockwaves through Greece – 7 of the 12 involved were sentenced to life in court.

A mural of the murdered Alkis Kampanos.

Drugs and knives

Opinions differ as to why there are so many bloody incidents in Thessaloniki.

According to some, it can be linked to the great poverty that prevails in the port city – those who have little, can also lose little.

Others point to the club’s rise under chairman Ivan Savvidis.

The oligarch, like his good friend Vladimir Putin, is not exactly known as a peacemaker, as his nickname ‘Ivan The Terrible’ suggests. A few years ago he walked onto the field with a gun to threaten the referee.

Savvidis believes himself to be untouchable and so do the fans – strengthened by the sporting advance.

Ivan Savvidis storms onto the field with his gun at the ready.

Testimonials bring up another problem: “There used to be mutual rivalry, but there was always respect,” an elderly ultra testified in Greek media.

“A lot has changed since then. Look, our generation used hash, but the young people now go to football under the influence of cocaine. A drug that makes them much more violent.”

“And you used to get respect based on the number of away matches you attended for your club. Now it is determined based on who walks around with a knife.”

After Kabanos’ death, Greek politics took several measures to curb the rampant hooliganism.

Matches had to take place behind closed doors for months and penalties for football violence were significantly increased. In addition, the government imposed stricter security rules for stadiums.

Did the steps yield anything? No one dares to confirm or deny it (on record).

Several local journalists first agreed to give an interview about the atmosphere at PAOK, but later withdrew when the (critical) questions came.

Or how fear still reigns in Greek football.


2024-04-18 10:11:27
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