Soccer player Giorgos Katidis appeared to give a Nazi salute after he scored the game winning goal in a 2-1 Super League victory over lowly Veria late on Saturday, before being quickly being surrounded by teammates.
People immediately started sharing the image on Twitter and Facebook and Katidis was criticized for the incident. Sunday marks the 70th anniversary of Greek Jew deportations in Nazi concentration camps in the Second World War.
Greece's soccer federation (EPO) said Sunday in a statement that the AEK Athens midfielder's gesture "is a deep insult to all victims of Nazi brutality."
Giorgos Katidis, 20, a former captain of Greece's Under-19 team, has been issued a life ban from all national teams by the EPO. AEK have asked Katidis to explain himself and will then decide his future on the team at a board meeting next week.
For his part, the young soccer star has denied even knowing how to give a Nazi salute. He insists he was simply pointing to a teammate in the stands. "I abhor fascism," he said in a tweet to his fans. "I would not have done it if I had known what it meant." He added that he knows the consequences and "would not do it ever."
Σιχαινομαι τον φασισμό . Δεν θα το έκανα αν ήξερα ότι σημαίνει κάτι τέτοιο. Ξέρω τις επιπτώσεις και δεν θα το έκανα ποτε.— giwrgos katidis (@GiwrgosKatidis) March 16, 2013
"He is a young kid," said AEK Athens' German coach, Ewald Lienen, who defended Katidis's ignorance of the gesture and said he probably didn't mean for it to be a Nazi salute. “If a player did that in my team, he would never play for me again.”