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ATHENS, GREECE: Barricades and cone are damaged after a 29-year-old Greek fan died during the overnight clashes between rival supporters at OPAP Arena in Nea Filadelfeia, Athens, Greece on 8 August 2023. European governing soccer body UEFA postponed the Champions League qualifying match between AEK Athens and Dinamo Zagreb of Croatia after the incident. Eight fans were injured, while Greek police said they made 98 arrests, mostly of Croatian supporters. (Photo by Dimitris Lampropoulos/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Soccer Fans Face Murder Charges After Deadly Clash Leaves Fan Dead

More than 100 soccer fans face criminal charges in an Athens court after a Greek man was fatally stabbed outside the Agia Sophia Stadium before a qualifying match of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League.

UEFA banned Croatian fans from entering Greece prior to the planned game between Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb and Greece’s AEK Athens team. Citing Croatian media coverage, the Associated Press reports that a group of about 175 organized Dinamo fans entering the country despite the ban. Subsequent clashes between Dinamo and AEK fans involved bats, stones, sharp objects, iron bars, and incendiary devices.

In the Nea Filadelfeia neighborhood, a northern suburb of the capital city, the Tuesday brawl outside of AEK’s home stadium left a 29-year-old AEK fan dead and 10 other people injured. The incident occurred prior to the start of the match, which was then cancelled and rescheduled for 19 August. Officials have not yet confirmed the identity of the fan that was killed.

Those participating in the massive fight—103 arrested suspects, including 97 Croatian nationals—face charges of assault, illegal possession and use of explosive material, murder, and membership of a criminal organization.

“The murder-related charge is likely to be dropped for most of the defendants as the investigation proceeds,” according to the Associated Press.  

Police set up highway roadblocks in Greece and additional border checks to search for additional suspects. They later announced that another six Croatians were arrested while trying to leave the country.

Giannis Oikonomou, Greece’s minister of citizen protection, dismissed calls for his resignation and instead lay blame on law enforcement for failing to prevent the clashes between the teams' fans, DW reported. Oikonomou said that seven high-ranking police officers have been suspended pending an internal investigation and warned that more officers could be removed from their posts.

UEFA condemned the violence and said that no away fans would be allowed at the upcoming qualifying games between AEK and Dinamo.

In response to the violence emerging around Greek soccer over the past few years, the Greek government increased the maximum prison sentence in 2022 for crimes of fan violence to five years, according to BBC News.

Despite this, fights between fans before or after a match are not uncommon.

“Greek soccer has been plagued by violence on and off the pitch and authorities have repeatedly promised to clean up the game. …[In 2022,] 19-year-old soccer fan, Alkis Kampanos, was beaten and stabbed to death outside the Aris Thessaloniki club stadium in the northern city of Thessaloniki,” Reuters reported.  

In July 2023, seven defendants accused of Kampanos’s murder were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison while another five were sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for their involvement.