(Reuters/AFP/AP) –UEFA–the governing body of European football–has called for a special report into allegations that Greece attempted to bribe Armenia to lose a key European championship qualifier.
The Greek national team beat Armenia 1-0 in Yerevan Saturday to take a major step toward automatic qualification in the finals of the European Championships in Portugal next year. It would be the first time Greece reached the finals since 1980. The Armenian Football Federation (AFF) said on Sunday that Armenian players had reported several weeks ago that they had received telephone calls from unidentified people offering them money to allow the Greeks to win.
Mike Lee–UEFA’s director of communications–told Reuters on Monday: "We have asked the match delegate for a supplementary report–although at this stage there is no formal investigation into the matter. We will have the report in the next 24 hours and will decide what action to take next based on what is in the report from the match delegate."
Greek soccer officials and press reports Monday sharply denounced the allegations. The Greek Football Association said it had asked UEFA to "investigate this case in its totality and charge those responsible for damaging the name of our country and football association." In a statement–the Greek FA also said it would file lawsuits against those responsible for "attempting to violently damage the effort of the national squad to qualify."
"Mud from Armenia," said a headline in the magazine Ethnosport. The newspaper Ta Nea described the accusations as a "dirty war."
In Yerevan–AFF chairman Ruben Hayrapetian said its officials were helping the investigation and it would make a statement after Armenia’s match on Wednesday in Northern Ireland.
The accusations appear to focus on Yervand Sukiasian–a former national team player now living in Greece. He allegedly claimed in a phone conversation with Hayrapetian that he had been "ordered" by the president of the Greek federation–Vasilios Gagatsis–to offer money for an Armenian loss. Hayrapetian then brought several AFF officials to the federation office and made a tape-recorded call to Sukiasian in which the former player offered $1 million for a Greek win.
Sukiasian–who works in Greece as an agent of Armenian players–denied taking part in any bribe plots or any links to Gagatsis. "They want to stain my name," he told the Supersport channel.
Armenia had no chance of qualification for Euro 2004 before the match against Greece. It is fourth in the group with four points from six matches. The win over Armenia put Greece top of Group Six with 15 points–four in front of favorites Spain and five ahead of Ukraine.