To the Greek football federation, celebrating a winning goal with a Nazi salute is not only unsportsmanlike conduct, but a ‘severe provocation’ and an abominable gesture.
This is what happened to Giogos Katidis, the 20-year-old midfielder who scored the winning goal in AEK Athens’s 2-1 Super League victory over Veria in the 84th minute, but celebrated it in front of spectators at the Olympic Stadium in a manner that did not sit well with the officers of the federation, politicians, fellow soccer players, and especially the fans.
Katsidis has now been banned for life from playing for Greece.
The gesture seemed to have brought back memories of the infamous ‘Heil Hitler’ salute, which was adopted in the 1930s by the Nazi Party to signal obedience to the party’s leader Adolf Hitler and to glorify the German nation and later the war effort.
“The action by the player to salute spectators with a Nazi salute defies common sense, profoundly shows disrespect to all the victims of Nazi atrocities and injures the peaceful and deeply human character of football. The Greek football federation condemns unequivocally and categorically such actions,” an announcement by the federation said.
Ironically, AEK’s German coach Ewald Lienen defended Katidis, whom he claimed was ignorant to the salute’s significance.
“He is a young kid who does not have any political ideas. He most likely saw such a salute on the Internet or somewhere else and did it, without knowing what it means,” he said.
But in a video taken, it showed that while his ecstatic teammates were rushing to hug him in admiration, Katidis tried hard to keep up his saluting arm. It was described by some as ‘Nazi salute par excellence.’
Katsidis, however, has pleaded ignorance, insisting, even, in his twitter account that he is anti-fascist.
An added trivia is that the use of ‘Heil Hitler’ salute is currently a criminal offense in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.