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Greece threatened with expulsion from international football competitions

This is the end result of the SYRIZA-led government’s purported efforts to “clean up” Greek football and “root out corruption,” while defending gun-toting oligarch Ivan Savvidis.

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SYRIZA may finally be achieving “Grexit.” Not the one, of course, that we were laughably led to believe it once supported in its days as a “radical anti-austerity” party, but which it always intended to eschew in the name of “Europe.” Instead, the “Grexit” coming to Greece may be of the football variety.
Following a recent spate of incidents in Greek football, topped off by the owner of PAOK FC Ivan Savvidis storming the football pitch while fully armed following a controversial call, the head of FIFA’s monitoring committee Herbert Huebel has formally recommended to FIFA Greece’s ejection from all international football competitions.
What this means is that Greek club teams as well as Greek national teams would be barred from participating in international competitions such as the qualifiers for the Euro 2020 competition, the UEFA Nations League, the UEFA Champions League, and the UEFA Europa League. Greece’s national men’s football team did not qualify for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
The only possible saving grace for Greece is that Huebel’s recommendation leaves a period of approximately six weeks for the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) to enforce the measures that have been recommended by FIFA, in order to avert a football “Grexit,” even at the last minute. This is because the recommendations have been passed on to FIFA’s members committee, which is slated to meet in late May or June, instead of to FIFA’s emergency committee, which would issue an immediate decision.
Huebel’s document highlighted various concerns which he used to justify his recommendation for Greece’s expulsion. These include the delays in the issuance of disciplinary decisions regarding Greek football matches, the lack of implementation of FIFA recommendations, and the likelihood that the champion of this season’s Super League will be determined in the courtroom and not on the playing field.
Huebel’s document also makes specific references to PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis storming the football pitch wielding a gun, the postponements of the Greek Super League and Greek Cup imposed by the SYRIZA-led government, and the ejection of PAOK from the European Club Association (ECA) following the aforementioned incident involving Savvidis.
The issuance of these recommendations comes following a meeting he had with the president of EPO Vangelis Grammenos in Austria earlier this week.
The risk of “Grexit” comes after a series of absurd moves on the part of the SYRIZA-led government, which as with every other aspect of society, is proclaiming that it is “rooting out corruption” in Greek football as well. These claims, of course, do not reflect reality, but are great fodder for SYRIZA’s party faithful and the “fans,” blinded by fanaticism, of teams such as PAOK and AEK, whose owners are widely recognized as being very close to the SYRIZA-led government.
Following the PAOK-AEK match and the incident involving an armed, unhinged Ivan Savvidis, the SYRIZA-led Greek government imposed a temporary postponement of league and cup matches, something which has become routine for the current regime. Similar postponements were enacted in 2015, 2016 and 2017, all in the name of “combating violence” in Greek football.
It seems though that for SYRIZA, some violence is not as bad as other violence. Today, a ruling regarding the events of the PAOK-AEK match where Savvidis stormed the football pitch resulted in a three year ban for Ivan Savvidis from entering football stadiums, a monetary fine of €15,000, a fine of €63,000 for PAOK, and the loss of three points in this season’s league table and two points next season.
The fine and loss of three points this season and two points next year is the same exact penalty which was levied against Panathinaikos in 2017 for an incident where a fan tossed a can of beer at the pitch, striking an opposing player.
In other words, in SYRIZA’s Greece, throwing a beer bottle and storming the pitch wielding a gun are met with the same exact penalty. There’s no arrest or jail sentence for Savvidis, nor was PAOK demoted to the Football League, the second category in Greek football, as foreseen by the very same law passed by SYRIZA — with FIFA’s approval — professing to “clean up” football.
Earlier this season, Olympiacos was docked three points for an incident where fans (but not the team owner) stormed the pitch following a home loss — with questionable officiating — against AEK. In other words, some fans coming onto the pitch is the same as a team owner chasing a referee with a weapon. In two other incidents, PAOK fans fought with police and other fans and attempted to storm stadiums in the cities of Ioannina and Tripolis. PAOK was not docked any points in the league table for these incidents.
In last season’s league cup final between PAOK and AEK, “fans” of the two teams rioted both inside and outside the neutral Panthessalian Stadium in the city of Volos, causing major injuries and damage to the facilities. Neither team was docked points for these incidents, by the government that is otherwise “policing” Greek football.
The name of the game though seems to be to strike perennial Greek champion Olympiacos and its owner, Evangelos Marinakis, who has also been embroiled in scandal but was recently acquitted on charges of participating in a criminal organization. Marinakis is viewed by SYRIZA as being close with the opposition New Democracy party, and is viewed by the fans of teams such as PAOK and AEK as being the epitome of all of the ills in Greek football due to the dominance of Olympiacos in the past two decades. SYRIZA has done nothing to bridge this division, and in fact it seems to be actively fanning the flames, counting on support from what it sees as a bloc of voters who oppose Olympiacos and Marinakis.
For fans of teams such as PAOK, based in Thessaloniki, there is a long-standing inferiority complex vis-à-vis the supposed “Athens-centric establishment.” For them, Ivan Savvidis, who “rescued” PAOK from bankruptcy a few seasons ago, is a savior who could do no wrong. We are told he has invested over €100 million in PAOK, that he will build the team a new stadium, that he has “stood up to the establishment.”
Even more ludicrously, we are told that he “saved Thessaloniki’s port from the Turks” (for participating in a consortium of mostly foreign investors, including German and Chinese, which purchased the harbor as part of SYRIZA’s privatization program which it had once pledged to stop) and that he “saved” the SEKAP tobacco industry in northern Greece from Turkish hands. The way Savvidis “saved” SEKAP was by initially purchasing the debt-ridden company, then blackmailing the government with threats to abandon the investment if the company’s debts to the state were not written off, then selling the now debt-free SEKAP to a company owned by the Japanese state.
It’s okay though, for Savvidis can do no wrong in the eyes of his army of supporters, or for the SYRIZA-led government. And returning to the matter at hand, it is clear that FIFA is not impressed. It is an open secret among football fans in Greece that EPO is a PAOK and AEK stronghold, following changes, or according to SYRIZA “catharsis,” imposed by the government last season. The message FIFA seems to be sending to EPO is to clean up their act or for Greek football to pay the ultimate price.
And what would this ultimate price be? The consequences would be disastrous for Greek football and, by extension, the Greek economy, at a time when despite the proclamations of SYRIZA regarding imminent “recovery,” the economy needs all the help it can get. Potential consequences include:

  • The inability of Greek club teams and national teams to participate in any international competitions, including exhibition matches.
  • The inability of Greek footballers to play for club teams outside of Greece.
  • The inability of foreign players to compete with Greek club teams.
  • The loss of massive income from Greek club teams’ participation in European competitions such as the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, including television revenue, sponsorships, and bonuses tied to team performance.
  • Greece being dropped to zero in the national team and club coefficients used by FIFA and UEFA to determine the relative strength of each country’s national team and club competitions. At the club level, the performance of a country’s club teams improves the country’s overall standing — the better the coefficient, the more teams from that country are permitted to compete in European competition such as the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. At the national team level, the better the coefficient, the higher the national team is ranked, meaning that it will receive theoretically more favorable draws for participation in the World Cup, the Euro cup, the Nations Cup, and the qualifiers for these tournaments. Following a potential Greek suspension, Greece would find itself starting with a coefficient of zero, which would mean the hardest, most challenging possible draws for both Greek club teams and the national team.
  • The loss of ancillary revenues, such as income from foreign teams and their fans visiting Greece for club and national team matches.
  • The total delegitimizing of the Greek football league, which would likely resemble an amateur football league much more than a professional league — one where no foreign players will compete, where revenues will be low, and international interest non-existent.

Of course, with the self-loathing and divide-and-conquer mentality that is so unfortunately prevalent in Greece today, fans who believe their teams have been “wronged,” such as PAOK and AEK, are only too happy to see a “Grexit” from international play, as they view this as being “what Greece deserves” for its “corruption” which, of course, they are not responsible for. Only Olympiacos is, clearly, and only its owner, Evangelos Marinakis.
Such attitudes are bolstered by Greece’s recklessly irresponsible and hideously biased sports journalists, all of whom seem to represent vested team interests and political interests as well, and who have for years created the impression that Greece is a hopeless basket case while touting how “civilized” athletics are in other “serious” countries. The high-level corruption in competitions such as the Olympics and the World Cup, and the more petty day-to-day incidents of biased refereeing or football riots between fans in other countries (even if they take place outside the stadium and not inside of it) are conveniently brushed off.
These outlets know, after all, who their audience is. For online sports portals in particular, it is angry and resentful young men, often unemployed or underemployed, and raised on a diet of being told, day after day, at school and from these very portals, that Greece is a backward banana republic and that other European countries are superior and civilized. These young men are probably also resentful that they were forced into military conscription in Greece. Largely apolitical, these men are nevertheless exposed to political propaganda via the “journalism” provided by these sports portals.
This mentality is epitomized by the following two examples:

  • A recent petition by PAOK fans which circulated online, stating that if PAOK is penalized for the recent incidents which took place in its home stadium, they will burn their military conscription papers and refuse to serve. This, of course, belies the gender and age group of most of the signatories of this “petition.”
  • An online poll that is active today on Sport24.gr — a portal operated by the PAOK-friendly 24 Media which is owned by Dimitris Maris, a former business partner of Ivan Savvidis — where 64 percent of “fans” have thus far voted in support of a Greek football Grexit.

There’s a saying for such people: “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” And in Greek society, where divide-and-conquer is the norm, the government is fanning the flames, using such divisions for its own petty interests and to boost its own favored oligarchs, all in the name of “routing the oligarchs” and “rooting out corruption.” But as is the case the world over, those screaming the loudest about “corruption” are usually the ones who are most blatantly guilty of it.
Opinions expressed are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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European Court of Justice rules Britain free to revoke Brexit unilaterally

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Britain can reverse Article 50.

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The UK is free to unilaterally revoke a notification to depart from the EU, the European Court has ruled. The judicial body said this could be done without changing the terms of London’s membership in the bloc.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) opined in a document issued on Monday that Britain can reverse Article 50, which stipulates the way a member state leaves the bloc. The potentially important ruling comes only one day before the House of Commons votes on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU.

“When a Member State has notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union, as the UK has done, that Member State is free to revoke unilaterally that notification,” the court’s decision reads.

By doing so, the respective state “reflects a sovereign decision to retain its status as a Member State of the European Union.”

That said, this possibility remains in place “as long as a withdrawal agreement concluded between the EU and that Member State has not entered into force.” Another condition is: “If no such agreement has been concluded, for as long as the two-year period from the date of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU.”

The case was opened when a cross-party group of British politicians asked the court whether an EU member such as the UK can decide on its own to revoke the withdrawal process. It included Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Scottish MPs Joanna Cherry Alyn Smith, along with Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer.

They argued that unilateral revocation is possible and believe it could provide an opening to an alternative to Brexit, namely holding another popular vote to allow the UK to remain in the EU.

“If the UK chooses to change their minds on Brexit, then revoking Article 50 is an option and the European side should make every effort to welcome the UK back with open arms,” Smith, the SNP member, was quoted by Reuters.

However, May’s environment minister, Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit supporter, denounced the ECJ ruling, insisting the cabinet will not reverse its decision to leave. “We will leave on March 29, [2019]” he said, referring to the date set out in the UK-EU Brexit deal.

In the wake of the landmark vote on the Brexit deal, a group of senior ministers threatened to step down en masse if May does not try to negotiate a better deal in Brussels, according to the Telegraph. The ministers demanded that an alternative deal does not leave the UK trapped within the EU customs union indefinitely.

On Sunday, Will Quince resigned as parliamentary private secretary in the Ministry of Defense, saying in a Telegraph editorial that “I do not want to be explaining to my constituents why Brexit is still not over and we are still obeying EU rules in the early 2020s or beyond.”

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Seven Days of Failures for the American Empire

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


On November 25, two artillery boats of the Gyurza-M class, the Berdiansk and Nikopol, one tugboat, the Yany Kapu, as well as 24 crew members of the Ukrainian Navy, including two SBU counterintelligence officers, were detained by Russian border forces. In the incident, the Russian Federation employed Sobol-class patrol boats Izumrud and Don, as  well as two Ka-52, two Su-25 and one Su-30 aircraft.

Ukraine’s provocation follows the advice of several American think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, which have been calling for NATO involvement in the Sea of Azov for months. The area is strategically important for Moscow, which views its southern borders, above all the Sea of Azov, as a potential flash point for conflict due to the Kiev’s NATO-backed provocations.

To deter such adventurism, Moscow has deployed to the Kerch Strait and the surrounding coastal area S-400 batteries, modernized S-300s, anti-ship Bal missile systems, as well as numerous electronic-warfare systems, not to mention the Russian assets and personnel arrayed in the military districts abutting Ukraine. Such provocations, egged on by NATO and American policy makers, are meant to provide a pretext for further sanctions against Moscow and further sabotage Russia’s relations with European countries like Germany, France and Italy, as well as, quite naturally, to frustrate any personal interaction between Trump and Putin.

This last objective seems to have been achieved, with the planned meeting between Trump and Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires being cancelled. As to the the other objectives, they seem to have failed miserably, with Berlin, Paris and Rome showing no intention of imposing additional sanctions against Russia, recognizing the Ukrainian provocation fow what it is. The intention to further isolate Moscow by the neocons, neoliberals and most of the Anglo-Saxon establishment seems to have failed, demonstrated in Buenos Aires with the meeting between the BRICS countries on the sidelines and the bilateral meetings between Putin and Merkel.

On November 30, following almost two-and-a-half months of silence, the Israeli air force bombed Syria with three waves of cruise missiles. The first and second waves were repulsed over southern Syria, and the third, composed of surface-to-surface missiles, were also downed. At the same time, a loud explosion was heard in al-Kiswah, resulting in the blackout of Israeli positions in the area.

The Israeli attack was fully repulsed, with possibly two IDF drones being downed as well. This effectiveness of Syria’s air defenses corresponds with Russia’s integration of Syria’s air defenses with its own systems, manifestly improving the Syrians’ kill ratios even without employing the new S-300 systems delivered to Damascus, let alone Russia’s own S-400s. The Pantsirs and S-200s are enough for the moment, confirming my hypothesis more than two months ago that the modernized S-300 in the hands of the Syrian army is a potentially lethal weapon even for the F-35, forbidding the Israelis from employing their F-35s.

With the failed Israeli attack testifying to effectiveness of Russian air-defense measures recently deployed to the country, even the United States is finding it difficult to operate in the country. As the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War confirms:

“Russia has finished an advanced anti-access/area denial (A2AD) network in Syria that combines its own air defense and electronic warfare systems with modernized equipment. Russia can use these capabilities to mount the long-term strategic challenge of the US and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East, significantly widen the geographic reach of Russia’s air defense network. Russia stands to gain a long-term strategic advantage over NATO through its new capabilities in Syria. The US and NATO must now account for the risk of a dangerous escalation in the Middle East amidst any confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe.”

The final blow in a decidedly negative week for Washington’s ambitions came in Buenos Aires during the G20, where Xi Jinping was clearly the most awaited guest, bringing in his wake investments and opportunities for cooperation and mutual benefit, as opposed to Washington’s sanctions and tariffs for its own benefit to the detriment of others. The key event of the summit was the dinner between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump that signalled Washington’s defeat in the trade war with Beijing. Donald Trump fired the first shot of the economic war, only to succumb just 12 months later with GM closing five plants and leaving 14,000 unemployed at home as Trump tweeted about his economic achievements.

Trump was forced to suspend any new tariffs for a period of ninety days, with his Chinese counterpart intent on demonstrating how an economic war between the two greatest commercial powers had always been a pointless propagandistic exercise. Trump’s backtracking highlights Washington’s vulnerability to de-dollarization, the Achilles’ heel of US hegemony.

The American-led world system is experiencing setbacks at every turn. The struggle between the Western elites seems to be reaching a boil, with Frau Merkel ever more isolated and seeing her 14-year political dominance as chancellor petering out. Macron seems to be vying for the honor of being the most unpopular French leader in history, provoking violent protests that have lasted now for weeks, involving every sector of the population. Macron will probably be able to survive this political storm, but his political future looks dire.

The neocons/neoliberals have played one of the last cards available to them using the Ukrainian provocation, with Kiev only useful as the West’s cannon fodder against Russia. In Syria, with the conflict coming to a close and Turkey only able to look on even as it maintains a strong foothold in Idlib, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States are similarly unable to affect the course of the conflict. The latest Israeli aggression proved to be a humiliation for Tel Aviv and may have signalled a clear, possibly definitive warning from Moscow, Tehran and Damascus to all the forces in the region. The message seems to be that there is no longer any possibility of changing the course of the conflict in Syria, and every provocation from here on will be decisively slapped down. Idlib is going to be liberated and America’s illegal presence in the north of Syria will have to be dealt with at the right time.

Ukraine’s provocation has only strengthened Russia’s military footprint in Crimea and reinforced Russia’s sovereign control over the region. Israel’s recent failure in Syria only highlights how the various interventions of the US, the UK, France and Turkey over the years have only obliged the imposition of an almost unparalleled A2AD space that severely limits the range of options available to Damascus’s opponents.

The G20 also served to confirm Washington’s economic diminution commensurate with its military one in the face of an encroaching multipolar environment. The constant attempts to delegitimize the Trump administration by America’s elites, also declared an enemy by the European establishment, creates a picture of confusion in the West that benefits capitals like New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran who offer instead stability, cooperation and dialogue.

As stated in previous articles, the confusion reigning amongst the Western elites only accelerates the transition to a multipolar world, progressively eroding the military and economic power of the US.

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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