OM: What reception can the Marseillais expect in the hell of Toumba?

They promised an evening to tremble from the calves to the Marseilles. The PAOK club, in Thessaloniki, a city in the north of Greece, organizes this Thursday evening Marseille Olympics in the quarterfinal second leg of the Europa League Conference (9pm), at Toumba Stadium.

Their coach, Razvan Lusescu, warned them after the first leg, who won 2-1 against OM: “Of course Marseille are favourites, but it will not be easy for them to play with us. I hope Marseille will be welcomed as we have been received here, I am really disappointed with what I saw today. It is not acceptable for football,” he accused, when incidents had broken out in Marseille since the day before, between Greek and Marseille supporters, and between Greek supporters and the police. This Wednesday, he gave it a lowso you won’t regret these comments.

“Lots of weird symbols in their stands”

A surprising announcement, but not so surprising if you know a little PAOK, and its fiery chairman Ivan Savvidis. He made himself known by taking the field armed in 2018, unhappy with an arbitration decision against AEK Athens. That earned him a three-year stadium ban in Greece. This close friend of Vladimir Putin – he is a member of his party – was also sentenced to 25 months in prison in February before appealing the decision.

The first stage in Marseille also recalled the volcanic nature of PAOK supporters, and in particular Gate 4 of the Toumba stadium, known for its nationalist movement† “There are quite a few weird symbols on their stands. At first I thought they were connected to Partizan Belgrade because of their colors, while there seems to be an ideology behind it rather. But it happens in many Greek clubs, which have gone in the wrong direction,” explains Ricardo Faty, who played for two years at PAOK’s rival club Aris Salonika, according to the midfielder “very left”.

On February 1, the PAOK ultras stabbed to death a 19 year old boy, follower of Aris Salonika. And members of Grobari, the main group of supporters of Partizan Belgrade behind the death of Toulouse supporter Brice Taton in 2009, were present at the Vélodrome stadium last Thursday, alongside members of Gate 4. All except children of choirs.

“Anarchists and Nationalists”

For Kostas Petrotos, a Greek journalist who follows PAOK, Gate 4, which “brings together about 8,000 supporters”, is difficult to define. “You will find all layers of society, racists, nationalists, but also leftists. Ultimately, they only define themselves as PAOK fans. Even if some are more anarchist and others more nationalist,” he said.

But the nationalists seem to be gaining an increasing share among the PAOK supporters, ultimately like Greek society. “I left Greece almost 10 years ago, so I’m not that familiar with the latest trends, but nationalism has made a very strong advance. In my day, PAOK fans were already known for that, and there were already quite a few problems back then. It’s kind of the recurring evil of Greek football, too much is being released,” said Ricardo Faty.

“Since the economic crash in 2010, nationalism has risen sharply. They started to become very important. They returned to government before killing a far-left activist and losing popularity,” Kostas Petrotos added.

Sold out game

For the reception of the Public Prosecution Service, without its supporters at the request of the Greek authorities, the Toumba stadium with 30,000 supporters will be sold out, for the first time since the shock against Olympiakos, in February 2020, mandatory covid. “The stadium will be full, it is a very important game to make history. There will be no Marseille fans, so the supporters must be calm,” said the journalist. Gate 4 members have also issued a press release requesting that the atmosphere throughout the stadium be the same as at Gate 4, while calling for nothing to be thrown on the lawn.

For Ricardo Faty, the atmosphere in the Toumba stadium is hostile, but not impressive. “It’s an open stadium, not like Galatasaray where you really have a cauldron effect. The atmosphere is impressive, there is a nice atmosphere, but it is also not the greatest I have experienced. On the other hand, when we won the first win there in 10 years in 2010, we had to stay in the dressing room for 2 hours because the supporters wouldn’t let us out,” the midfielder recalled. Let’s hope Dimitri Payet at least take turns

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