AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis raising his hand in a Nazi style salute
AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis raising his hand in a Nazi style salute at Athens Olympic Stadium. Photo by Reuters
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A midfielder for AEK Athens  was handed a lifetime ban from all national teams by Greece’s soccer federation EPO Sunday after he appeared to give a Nazi salute to supporters during a match.
 
Giorgos Katidis, 20, a former captain of Greece’s under-19 team, made the alleged salute in celebrating his winning goal in a 2-1 Super League victory over lowly Veria late on Saturday.
 
“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 in statement.
 
Katidis was heavily criticized by political parties and fans on Twitter and Facebook following the incident at the Athens Olympic Stadium. AEK has asked Katidis to explain himself and will then decide his future at a board meeting next week.
 
Katidis denied he gave a Nazi salute. “I am not a fascist and would not have done it if I had known what it meant,” Katidis said on his Twitter account. 
 
The player said he was simply pointing at Michalis Pavlis in the stands to dedicate the goal to his teammate as he continues to fight health problems.
 
AEK’s German coach Ewald Lienen backed Katidis. “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.
 
AEK is languishing in 10th place in the table with 29 points from 26 games. Veria is fourth from bottom.
 
Katidis joined the club from Aris Salonika last year after impressing in Greece’s run to the final of the European Under-19 Championship where it lost to Spain.