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ATHENS (Reuters) - Deputy Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis is hoping his country will avoid international sanctions after cancelling this season's Greek Cup because of crowd violence.
FIFA and UEFA, the respective ruling bodies of world and European soccer, have asked for the Greek Cup to be reinstated by April 1 after the competition was scrapped by the government earlier this month.
The decision was made after the first leg of the semi-final between PAOK Salonika and Olympiakos Piraeus on March 2 was abandoned due to a violent pitch invasion, with fans hurling flares and missiles before being dispersed by riot police.
Failure to meet the April 1 deadline could result in the suspension of the Greek federation, clubs being stopped from playing in European club competitions and the national side barred from international tournaments.
"I took the initiative to speak today because the situation is very unsettled and many people perceive that as a weakness," Kontonis told a news conference on Monday ahead of a planned visit to Athens by FIFA and UEFA on Wednesday.
"What cannot be tinkered with further is a law which was already passed in parliament and is already being applied to the letter. For all themes, however, I want to hear suggestions and I believe that we'll have a very smooth meeting."
Before the FIFA and UEFA delegations arrive, the Hellenic Football Federation will appeal to Greece's Supreme Court on Tuesday to reverse the decision made by Kontonis.
"We are fighting to get our decision validated," said the Deputy Sports Minister. "It was an entirely legal move and, as a measure, solves a serious problem, that of preserving public order."
Kontonis also explained why he canceled last week's meeting between the presidents of the elite clubs including Olympiakos, PAOK, Panathinaikos and AEK Athens.
Panathinaikos refused to take part and Olympiakos owner Vangelis Marinakis was advised not to attend by the Athens sports prosecutor due to an ongoing investigation into a match-fixing probe in which the shipping magnate has been accused of involvement.
"We learned at the last minute that he [Marinakis] is a citizen currently with restrictive conditions imposed on him by law but from our side we will move on and rearrange a new meeting," said Kontonis.
"We want a common agreement in place to stop the downward spiral of Greek football and the phenomenon of violence."
Editing by Tony Jimenez