This weekend marked the 70th anniversary of the roundup and deportation of Greek Jews to Nazi extermination camps during World War II. What better way to commemorate such a somber occasion than by giving a full-on Nazi salute after scoring a game-winning goal in the Greek Super League?
AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis scored on a late deflection on Saturday, giving his club a 2-1 Super League victory over Veria.
Like his toe-poke deflection, his celebration choice may have just been instinct as well, but giving the Nazi salute was clearly a bad first touch. For his actions, Greece’s soccer federation EPO handed Katidis a lifetime ban from all national soccer teams. “The player’s action to salute to spectators in a Nazi manner is a severe provocation, insults all the victims of Nazi bestiality and injures the deeply pacifist and human character of the game,” EPO said.
The odd salute and federation’s ban comes at a time when Greece’s Golden Dawn Party is improbably gaining in popularity. The Neo-Nazi political party swept into parliament with 18 seats in last year’s election.
The 20-year-old Katidis had previously been a captain for Greece’s Under-19 team. Even his teammates who caught the gesture were left confused:
Katidis took to Twitter to plead ignorance, telling fans “I am not a fascist and would not have done it if I had known what it meant.”
Here’s a rough English translation:
Katidis said he was simply pointing at injured teammate Michalis Pavlis in the stands, dedicating the game-winning goal to his buddy.
AEK’s coach defended his player: “He is a young kid who does not have any political ideas,” he said. “He most likely saw such a salute on the Internet or somewhere else and did it without knowing what it means.”
Giorgos Katidis’ coach is Ewald Lienen … from Germany.
It all happened very quickly. Here’s the goal and celebration: