Soccer-Greece orders top-flight clubs to play matches without fans for two months

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece must play all its top league soccer matches without fans for the next two months following the severe injuring of a police officer in violence during a volleyball match in Athens last week, its government said on Monday.

All Super League 1 matches will be played behind closed doors until Feb. 12, 2024, government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis told a weekly briefing on Monday.

The volleyball match was between local teams Olympiacos and Panathinaikos who are both owned by the soccer sides of the same name.

Marinakis said the measure might also apply to some European fixtures at home and could be extended beyond Feb. 12, if top league soccer teams fail by that date to take action, such as installing cameras and systems of electronic identification for their fans at the stadiums.

The announcement followed the critical injuring of a 31-year-old police officer by a flare in violent clashes that broke out on Thursday, during a volleyball match hosted by Olympiacos in Piraeus.

In Greece, fights between football fans and clubs are frequent on and off the pitch before or after a game and the government has been trying to reform soccer.

More than 400 people had been briefly detained over Thursday's incident which Greek police said was a "murderous attack" of hooligans on riot police, including the officer who remains in hospital in critical condition.

Evidence collected helped police track down a 18-year-old man who confessed to joining the group which attacked the police and to throwing the flare which injured the officer, a police official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The arrested man was expected to testify before a public prosecutor on Thursday, the semi-state Athens News Agency reported on Monday.

"For years, criminals in the guise of fans have been committing serious crimes by critically injuring and killing (people)," Marinakis said.

"Neither athletes, nor fans should they suffer from the murderous behaviour of criminal gangs and the pathetic tolerance of a tiny minority of fans," he added.

Last August, AEK Athens fan Michalis Katsouris was stabbed to death in violent clashes before a Champions League match between AEK and Dinamo Zagreb.

Following another incident, the death of a 19-year-old fan, Alkis Kampanos, in rival clashes in the northern city of Thessaloniki last year, Greece tightened rules over soccer clubs, imposed heavier penalties and increased police controls.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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