AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis has received a five-match ban for his Nazi-style salute after a goal in his club’s 2-1 Super League victory over Veria last month.
The Greek Football Association (EPO) disciplinary panel also ordered the 20-year-old to pay a $1,300 fine and has forbidden the player from entering any sports stadiums for three months. The suspension, however, is merely symbolic given that AEK previously banned him from playing until the end of the Super League season.
On the surface the EPO’s punishment may feel a bit soft. A five match suspension, a nominal fine and a ban on entering sports stadiums will hardly leave a mark on young Katidis. By means of comparison, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez was handed an eight match ban and a $61,000 fine by England’s Football Association after he was found guilty of calling Manchester United’s Patrice Evra a ‘negro’ seven times during a match in October 2011.
One might say the difference in punishments reflects each nation’s respective tolerance towards racism in football. But keep in mind that the EPO already issued its most aggressive sanction to Katidis, a lifetime ban from playing on the Greek national team. For any professional player who dreams of playing in World Cups and European Championships – let alone a player who captained his under 21 national team – that’s a pretty hefty price to pay.
There is no excuse for what Katidis did. It’s worth noting, however, that since the incident Katidis has repeatedly apologized for his actions calling them “totally unacceptable.” He’s also requested he be dropped from AEK’s first team.
Although it’s difficult to say whether Katidis’ reactions are heart-felt and indicative of a changed man, it certainly looks that way. The leaders of football governing bodies – especially Sepp Blatter – would do well to note the impact of such strict sanctions.