PAOK president Thodoris Zagorakis has shocked PAOK and the Greek football community by resigning suddenly on Thursday last week.
The statement on the club’s website broke the news to PAOK fans no less than one day after another incident involving PAOK supporters.
His move after two and a half years at the chair of one of Greece’s most popular clubs came on the day after the unprecedented riots at a youth match when PAOK fans allegedly attacked and stabbed Aris fans and officials.
Zisis Vryzas was later voted the new president of PAOK, following a unanimous decision at the extraordinary board meeting on Friday.
Vryzas, until Friday had been the technical director of the Thessaloniki club, said that he feels he is capable of doing a good job at the post.
According to reports Zagorakis himself recommended that Vryzas succeeded him.
“Thodoris is like a brother to me, but I have also got my own strengths and personality,” said Vryzas.
“United, we will carry on with our plan, putting PAOK above everything,” he professed.
Manager Fernando Santos is to stay at the club, despite earlier statements by the Portuguese that if Zagorakis were to resign he would quit, too. Vryzas made it clear on Friday that “there is no reason for Santos to go.”
Zagorakis, whose leadership was hardly ever disputed by the ever-demanding PAOK supporters, had reportedly come close to quitting two weeks ago following PAOK’s home loss to Olympiakos, but he decided to stay on then.
He posted a personal statement that stopped short of explaining his decision, although sources close to the Greece skipper at the Euro 2004 triumph suggested that he was particularly upset by the riots at the youth match.
“There are days in people’s lives when their wishes succumb to superior forces. Today is one such day for me. I am obliged for personal reasons to tender my resignation from the governing board of PAOK football club,” said Zagorakis in his statement.
“Soon, when conditions allow me to do it, I will be able to explain clearly my reasons to resign, as I have to do for the fans of PAOK and the thousands of shareholders who have supported our effort for the renaissance of the club,” he added.
“PAOK has a past, a present and a future. I am convinced that the effort of the team to rise to the summit of Greek and European football will continue without hesitation, both by fans and by the people who two and a half years ago envisaged PAOK as a leading force, along with myself,” concluded Zagorakis.
Violence in Greek football has now trickled down to the grassroots, as the gang attack on Aris under-21 team officials and fans showed last Wednesday in Thessaloniki.
During the interval of the Under-21 cup match between Aris and PAOK at Souroti a group of fans bearing PAOK’s colours, wearing helmets and holding knives, wooden sticks and iron bars attacked anyone bearing Aris’s colours.
The outcome of this sudden but obviously well-planned attack at a match guarded by no more than two policemen was the serious injury to an Aris fan and a stab wound on the thigh of Nikos Passialis, the technical director of Aris’s academies.
Both injured men were taken to a Thessaloniki hospital.
The match was abandoned, with the only thing remaining on the pitch being a long wooden stick with nails on it at the six-yard box.