ATHENS, Greece — A funeral service was held Friday for a Greek soccer fan killed in an attack led by Croatian supporters that has rattled European sporting officials.
Hundreds of mourners – many wearing the black and yellow colors of the Michalis Katsouris’ team, AEK Athens – gathered outside a church Elefsina, 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Athens, clapping as his white casket was carried past them.
The 29-year-old AEK fan died from a stab wound, and 10 others were injured when scores of Croatian supporters wielding wooden clubs and metal bats attacked bystanders outside AEK’s Opap Arena on Monday, police said.
A Champions League qualifier between AEK and Dinamo Zagreb that was due to be held hours later was called off by UEFA, soccer’s governing body in Europe.
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin will visit Greece next week and plans to meet on Wednesday with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the head of the Greek Football Federation, Panagiotis Baltakos.
Representatives of the country’s four major clubs – AEK Athens, Olympiakos, PAOK and Panathinaikos – as well as government sporting officials have been invited to attend the discussions, government officials said.
Ceferin had been scheduled to travel to Athens to attend the UEFA Super Cup final between Manchester City and Sevilla on Wednesday. UEFA has formally requested a report on the Athens violence before considering “next steps and any potential measures.”
More than 100 people – mostly Croatian nationals – were arrested after the attack and have been charged with murder, membership of a criminal gang and other offenses. Police are continuing to conduct searches in Athens and at border and transit points, looking for Croatian fans believed to have escaped arrest.
The murder charges, applied in a blanket indictment for all the suspects, are likely to be dropped for most of the arrested fans as the investigation proceeds.
State ERT television reported that by late Friday all 30 suspects – 28 Croatians and two Greeks – who had appeared before investigative judges had been ordered to remain in custody pending their trials. The rest of the suspects were due to appear before court officials over the weekend.
Earlier, brief clashes broke out in front of court buildings in Athens where the arrested fans were giving evidence related to the deadly violence. They had been led into the buildings in pairs and handcuffed under a heavy police escort.
Some 200 fans of AEK gathered outside the court complex, some hurling bottles of water and other objects at police and television crews.
No arrests or injuries were reported.
Local authorities in Elefsina suspended several public events ahead of the funeral service in a sign of mourning. It is one of three European Union towns and cities, along with Timisoara in Romania and Veszprem in Hungary, awarded the status of European Cultural Capital for 2023.
“The cowardly and unprovoked murder of Michalis must not and will not be forgotten,” Elefsina Mayor Argyris Economou said. “His burial place will always be here, as a symbol that reminds us all, current and future generations, of the painful consequences of fascist fan violence.”
Dunbar reported from Geneva, Switzerland. Lefteris Pitarakis in Athens contributed.
Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.