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Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Thursday, 5 April 2007 18:12 UK

Athens chief wants Greek Euro ban

Demis Nikolaidis
Nikolaidis led a consortium to buy AEK after retiring aged 31

AEK Athens president Demis Nikolaidis says Greek clubs should be banned from European football for three years to stamp out hooliganism in the country.

It follows a riot in the Greek capital last week between rival fans which left one fan dead and dozens injured.

The Greek government has suspended all professional team sports for two weeks to force clubs to address the violence.

Ex-Greece international Nikolaidis told the BBC World Service: "The ban worked for English clubs. It can work here."

Last week's battle in the capital between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos fans erupted after a women's volleyball match between the two affiliated teams.

Police raided dozens of clubhouses and seized scores of weapons such as chains, petrol bombs and knives.

Nikolaidis, 33, has been waging a personal crusade to eradicate hooliganism at AEK so that families can feel safe when attending the club's home matches.

Only with drastic measures can we hope to change things

Demis Nikolaidis

But he feels a more radical approach of preventing other top Greek clubs like Olympiakos and Panathinaikos from playing in the Champions League or Uefa Cup is the only way of curbing fans' bad behaviour.

Nikolaidis said: "Only with drastic measures can we hope to change things.

"The oneness of clubs should be to put the improvement of Greek football first, before even start thinking of the benefits of playing in European competition.

"Together we can change things step by step, but these things that should have been done a long time before.

"There is a long way to go. We need to reconstruct Greek football and start at the beginning again."

Nikolaidis admitted he was not surprised with the discovery of weapons after the police raid.

"We all know how hard they hit into each other at fixed meeting points, and that they often arrange these rendezvous," he added.

Nikolaidis amassed 54 Greek caps, netting 17 times before retiring aged just 31.

Car damaged during clash between rival Greek fans
A car damaged during clash between rival Greek fans

He scored in the 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw against England at Old Trafford in October 2001, made famous by David Beckham's last-minute free-kick equaliser.

And as one of his nation's most well-known sportsman, he hopes his reputation as a player and administrator will give his demand for action credance.

But he added: "It's not easy to put these plans into action and fight fire with fire.

"I don't need supporters of my ideas - I need partners to work with and deal with the problem.

"We need law enforcenment that puts people in jail when breaking the law and but if you ask me what the main thing we need it is for people to start loving football in Greece."

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