A Greek soccer player, Giorgos Katidis, has been banned for life from representing Greece in international tournaments for giving a Nazi salute to fans in Athens on Saturday after scoring a game-winning goal, according to The New York Times.
The Hellenic Football Federation issued the following statement about the incident:
“The player’s action to salute to spectators in a Nazi manner is a severe provocation, insults all the victims of Nazi barbarity and injures the deeply pacifist and human character of the game.”
Katidis originally claimed he was not doing a Nazi salute, but that he was pointing to friends in the stands. He also said that he did not know what it meant. In an apology, he said it was “totally unacceptable,” adding, “I feel terrible for those I upset with the stupidity of my act.”
On Sunday, he also said, “I want to clarify that I am not a fascist or neo-Nazi or racist. I have a step-brother from Puerto Rico, and all my family are from the Black Sea and have experienced racism in the worst ways.” He added: “I sincerely apologize to my teammates and everyone involved with the club that I have insulted in not knowing exactly what I had done in my celebration. Nonetheless, the fact that I did not know what I was doing is no excuse.”
Katidis is a midfielder for AEK Athens and he said “I despise fascism. I would not have done it if I knew what something like this meant. I know what the consequences are and I would never have done it.”
The German coach of the team, Ewald Lienen, said, “He hasn’t got a clue about politics. That’s why we shouldn’t condemn him. Any footballer who knows about my past, where I’m from and my political beliefs would know that such a gesture would lead to that being his last game for AEK,” the Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported. “He most likely saw such a salute on the Internet or somewhere else and did it without knowing what it means.”