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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Brawl halts team sports in Greece
Car damaged during clash between rival Greek fans
The fight started in a car park about 27km (17 miles) east of Athens
Greek authorities have cancelled all team sports matches for two weeks after a mass brawl between rival women's volleyball fans left one man dead.

"All team sports will be suspended... until 13 April," a government spokesman said after a cabinet meeting called to discuss the violence.

The pitched battle took place between fans of Olympiakos Piraeus and Panathinaikos near Athens.

Witnesses say about 300 fans fought using clubs, knives and stones.

Police detained 18 people during the violence, which Greek media reports suggested had been arranged by fans ahead of the match.

The 25-year-old man who died had head injuries and stab wounds, doctors said. Several other people were injured in the brawl in the Peania area outside Athens.

Violence in sport is something that affects our entire society... and cannot be tolerated
Theodoros Roussopoulos
Government spokesman

"They were jumping on our car for five minutes, they were asking for our mobile phones and stabbed our driver," one witness said.

The deadly brawl, which dominated Greek newspapers and television news, prompted immediate calls for action and criticism that more had not been done to prevent the violence.

"We had warned that this game was dangerous," the head of Greece's volleyball federation, Thanassis Beligratis, was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis called an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday.

"Violence in sport is something that affects our entire society... and cannot be tolerated," said government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos.

He said the government had agreed on a series of measures, including enforcing a law which would see fans convicted of violence sent to jail rather than serving suspended sentences.

Mandatory surveillance cameras would also be in place at all main football stadiums by 2008, he said.

Endemic violence

The Greek decision to suspend team sports until 13 April echoes similar moves in Italy in February after a policeman was killed in rioting at a football match in Sicily.

Palermo fans at a match against Catania in Sicily on 2 February
Deadly violence plunged Italian football into crisis in February

All football in Italy's top divisions was suspended for a week and stadiums not meeting safety standards were closed.

The suspension in Greece will actually halt matches only for a week, as it includes the Orthodox Easter weekend on 8 April, during which no games are played anyway.

The authorities have long tried to eradicate the violence that is endemic in Greek sport, correspondents say.

Hooliganism mainly affects football and basketball but also breaks out occasionally at other sports such as volleyball and water polo.

Both Olympiakos Piraeus and Panathinaikos have major teams in football, basketball and other sports.

There have been clashes between rival supporters in the past.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The scene of the mass brawl



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