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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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Tape recorded evidence of Clinton-Ukraine meddling in US election surfaces (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a look at new evidence to surface from Ukraine that exposes a plot by the US Embassy in Kiev and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) to leak Paul Manafort’s corrupt dealings in the country, all for the benefit of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has launched an investigation into the head of the Ukrainian National Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly attempting to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump during the 2016 US election by releasing damaging information about a “black ledger” of illegal business dealings by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Hill’s John Solomon, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko

“Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko said last week, according to The Hill

Lutsenko is probing a claim from a member of the Ukrainian parliament that the director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), Artem Sytnyk, attempted to the benefit of the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A State Department spokesman told Hill.TV that officials aware of news reports regarding Sytnyk. –The Hill

“According to the member of parliament of Ukraine, he got the court decision that the NABU official conducted an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” said Lutsenko, speaking with The Hill’s John Solomon about the anti-corruption bureau chief, Artem Sytnyk.

“It means that we think Mr. Sytnyk, the NABU director, officially talked about criminal investigation with Mr. [Paul] Manafort, and at the same time, Mr. Sytnyk stressed that in such a way, he wanted to assist the campaign of Ms. Clinton,” Lutsenko continued.

Solomon asked Lutsenko about reports that a member of Ukraine’s parliament obtained a tape of the current head of the NABU saying that he was attempting to help Clinton win the 2016 presidential election, as well as connections that helped release the black-ledger files that exposed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s wrongdoing in Ukraine.

“This member of parliament even attached the audio tape where several men, one of which had a voice similar to the voice of Mr. Sytnyk, discussed the matter.” –The Hill

What The Hill doesn’t mention is that Sytnyk released Manafort’s Black Book with Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko – discussed in great length by former Breitbart investigator Lee Stranahan, who has been closely monitoring this case.

Serhiy Leshchenko

T]he main spokesman for these accusations was Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian politician and journalist who works closely with both top Hillary Clinton donors George Soros and Victor Pinchuk, as well as to the US Embassy in Kyiv.

James Comey should be asked about this source that Leshchenko would not identify. Was the source someone connected to US government, either the State Department or the Department of Justice?

The New York Times should also explain why they didn’t mention that Leshchenko had direct connections to two of Hillary Clinton biggest financial backers. Victor Pinchuk, the largest donor to the Clinton Foundation at a staggering $8.6 million also happened to have paid for Leshchenko’s expenses to go to international conferences. George Soros, whose also founded the International Renaissance Foundationthat worked closely with Hillary Clinton’s State Department in Ukraine, also contributed at least $8 million to Hillary affiliated super PACs in the 2016 campaign cycle. –Lee Stranahan via Medium

Meanwhile, according to former Fusion GPS contractor Nellie Ohr, Leshchenko was a source for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for the Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS, testified on Oct. 19 that Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned Ukrainian lawmaker, was a source for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign.

“I recall … they were mentioning someone named Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian,” Ohr said when asked who Fusion GPS’s sources were, according to portions of Ohr’s testimony confirmed by The Daily Caller News Foundation. –Daily Caller

Also absent from The Hill report is the fact that Leshchenko was convicted in December by a Kiev court of interfering in the 2016 US election.

A Kyiv court said that a Ukrainian lawmaker and a top anticorruption official’s decision in 2016 to publish documents linked to President Donald Trump’s then-campaign chairman amounted to interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The December 11 finding came in response to a complaint filed by another Ukrainian lawmaker, who alleged that Serhiy Leshchenko and Artem Sytnyk illegally released the documents in August 2016, showing payments by a Ukrainian political party to Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The documents, excerpts from a secret ledger of payments by the Party of Regions, led to Manafort being fired by Trump’s election campaign.

The Kyiv court said that the documents published by Leshchenko and Sytnyk were part of an ongoing pretrial investigation in Ukraine into the operations of the pro-Russian Party of Regions. The party’s head had been President Viktor Yanukovych until he fled the country amid mass protests two years earlier.

-RadioFreeEurope/Radio Liberty (funded by the US govt.).

So while Lutsenko – Solomon’s guest and Ukrainian Prosecutor is currently going after Artem Sytnyk, it should be noted that Leshchenko was already found to have meddled in the 2016 US election.

Watch:

Meanwhile, you can also check out Stranahan’s take on Leshchenko being left out of the loop.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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