Greek footballer Giorgos Katidis given lifetime national ban after Nazi salute

Rising star pleads innocence after Twitter outrage

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The Independent Online

A young Greek footballer has been banned from all levels of international football after celebrating a goal with what appears to be a fascist salute.

Giorgos Katidis, the 20-year-old AEK Athens midfielder, made the offending gesture after scoring his side's winning goal in a 2-1 win against Veria yesterday.

After an internet backlash the player - a former captain of Greece's under-19 side - insisted he was simply pointing at a team mate in the stands, and tweeted: "I am not a fascist and would not have done it if I had known what it meant."

The Greek football federation called it "a severe provocation" that insulted "all the victims of Nazi bestiality".

The incident has added significance because of the rise of the country's neo-fascist Golden Dawn party, which now has 18 seats in Greece's 300-seat parliament. They have also been blamed for rising anti-immigrant violence across the country.

The club have asked Katidis to explain himself at a board meeting next week. But AEK's German coach Ewald Lienen told Reuters: "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."