“I wonder why it had to continue…”

It was only natural that all the ugliness that occurred a little prior to the end of the game (and not just then…) would become a topic to be commented by players and coaches alike during the post-game press conference after the end of the game between Panionios and Panathinaikos at the Nea Smyrmi indoors arena.

Zeljko Obradovic underlined: “How is it possible for these things to happen? If the rocks and bottles instead of hitting Tsartsaris and Diamantidis hit the referees instead would they continue the game? I honestly wonder why the game had to continue. There is nothing else to say.” As regards the game, he was rather succinct: “Congratulations to my players. It was not easy to prepare the game given what had preceded that, that is to say the game against Maccabi Electra. Congratulations to Panionios too. They are always worthy opponents. At least as long as basketball was being played…”

Panionios’ coach, Giorgos Bartzokas, stated: “Congratulations to Panathinakos for qualifying to the Euroleague Final 4. Panathinaikos’ and Olympiakos’ qualifications came as a result of the work that the teams and the administrations do and we are not trying to usurp any credit, but everyone working in basketball feels proud of that. We challenged victory from Olympiakos at S.E.F. and apart from our own mistakes there were many other factors that did not allow us to win it. We also claimed victory now, knowing that Panathinaikos would be exhausted. We wanted more energy. Batis’ and Jankovic’s absences did not allow us to avoid having blanks, and neither did Panathinaikos for that matter, but generally speaking we played well. The stars of the game should have been the players and not those who wanted to star in it. This is a black day for Panionios. These things also happen at the OAKA and the S.E.F. Coach Obradovic said that he is going to leave. We feel ashamed of what happened in the stands. What we are left with is defamatory to basketball and a punishment for our home arena. It is a time of great tension in people; the situation is out of control. I am not an expert and cannot suggest any solution.”

When asked about the abusive mottos against Dimitris Diamantidis, he said: “Those who play on the court do not want to hear any swearing against them. In a country where everyone is talking about leaving to go abroad, when I say that all those who work in basketball are proud, I mean that they are participating in something serious. Even with all this ugliness and with budget cuts it continues being at a high level.” Finally, referring to the lack of an international referee amongst the three who were assigned to officiate the game he noted: “We played without an international referee against both Olympiakos and Panathinaikos. They did not expect Panionios to press. The CRC (Central Refereeing Committee) told us that they expected us to lose by 30 points. I did not notice any intentional mistakes.” At this point, Dimitris Itoudis underlined that the “attack occurred because Panionios got close to the score.”

Kostas Tsartsaris stated: “What we experienced is a depiction of Greek sports. Being the European champions, playing with a team as serious as that, it is not nice at all to see these things happen. Of course, it goes without saying that this does not only happen at Panionios’ home arena, but in other arenas as well. Sometimes words fall short of describing some situations. I only wish that we can all do something together so as to find a solution. Maybe in the next game that something like that happens the players of both teams can pack up and leave.”

Panionios’ guard, Vassilis Xanthopoulos, added: “Congratulations to Panathinaikos for qualifying to the Final 4. Up to a point, our fans were amazing, but then some things happened that should not have. Given that this was the second game, we played very well, but we can do even better. We lost at the end due to a single situation and this should serve as a lesson to us. I fear not for Panionios.”