THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) The eagerly awaited derby between Greek league leader PAOK and defending champion Olympiakos at PAOK’s Toumba Stadium never got underway Sunday, after Olympiakos coach Oscar Garcia was sent to hospital after being hit in the face by a cash register paper roll.
While they did not dispute the hit, PAOK officials said Olympiakos exaggerated the impact in an attempt to have PAOK, which is six points ahead of Olympiakos, face punishment and possible point deduction.
“This is a shadow play, a strategy that Olympiakos started implementing even ahead of the game, fantasizing about (incidents) in its friendly media,” said PAOK communications chief Kyriakos Kyriakos. “Just this morning, they warned us that they would leave the pitch at the slightest incident.”
The roll appeared to be thrown from the VIP stands as the teams came out before the game started.
Garcia was rushed to a hospital, but the teams stayed in the stadium for nearly three hours before they were told the game was off.
The private clinic where Garcia was taken issued a statement about five hours after the coach was admitted, saying his upper left lip was swollen and skin on the inside of his mouth was injured.
“He has sensitivity in the jaw, neck pain, dizziness and nausea,” the clinic statement says.
Garcia was scheduled to stay at the hospital overnight.
Witnesses claimed the roll had already unfolded when it reached Garcia.
No away fans were allowed at the game and PAOK supporters were unusually well-behaved ahead of kickoff. The often seen spectacle of flares creating a wall of thick smoke was absent. Instead, home fans greeted their team throwing pieces of torn paper, like confetti – and the cash register paper roll.
There was one incident outside the arena, as police dispersed about a thousand fans with tear gas, but otherwise the nearly 30,000-seat arena was evacuated without incident.
Olympiakos is required to get a diagnosis from a public hospital, not the private clinic Garcia is currently in.
Olympiakos also faces a deduction of three points for fan behavior last month. The club has already been deducted those points, but is appealing the sentence. Pending appeal, the standings do not reflect the sentence. A loss of those three points and with eight rounds remaining would essentially scuttle Olympiakos’ hopes for a 20th league title in 22 seasons. But sanctions against PAOK, together with a successful appeal, would complicate the odds.
Second-place AEK Athens, which lies two points behind PAOK and plays at fourth-place Atromitos Monday could take over the league lead with a win.
Nellas reported from Athens, Greece