A Greek soccer player has been banned for life from playing for the national team after giving the Nazi salute during a game.
Giorgos Katidis, 20, who plays for the AEK Athens team, gave the salute after scoring the winning goal in a match on March 15, the same day Greek Jews marked the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Thessaloniki Jewish community to Auschwitz.
The Greek soccer federation on Sunday barred Katidis from playing for the national team for life, saying that the Nazi salute was a “severe provocation” and an insult to “all the victims of Nazi barbarity.”
Katidis, who used to play for a Thessaloniki team, claimed he was unaware of the meaning of the salute and apologized for his act. “I am not a racist,” he said in a message on Twitter.
In recent months Greece has seen an upsurge in such incidents with the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, whose members and leaders often give the salutes and employ other Nazi imagery
Speaking at a ceremony on Sunday to mark the deportation of the Thessaloniki Jews, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras vowed to take a harsher stance against neo-Nazis and racists.