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Greek player given life ban for 'Nazi salute'

AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis has been banned from representing all Greek national teams for life after appearing to give a Nazi salute to supporters while celebrating a goal.

The Greek Football Association (EPO) issued the ban to Katidis, 20, a former captain of Greece's Under-19 team, for his celebration following his winning goal in Saturday's 2-1 Super League victory over Veria.

"The player's action to salute to spectators in a Nazi manner is a severe provocation, insults all the victims of Nazi bestiality and injures the deeply pacifist and human character of the game," EPO said in a statement.

Katidis' salute has led to criticism in Greece from political parties and fans alike, with Sunday marking the 70th anniversary of Greek Jew deportations in Nazi concentration camps in the Second World War.

The AEK player took to Twitter to deny giving a Nazi salute, claiming that he did not know what the salute meant.

He wrote: "I am not a fascist and would not have done it if I had known what it meant."

Katidis also claims that he was pointing at Michalis Pavlis in the stands to dedicate the goal to his team-mate who is fighting health problems.

The Greek club have asked Katidis to explain his actions before making a decision on his future at a board meeting next week. AEK coach, Ewald Lienen, has backed his player, however.

"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," he said.

Katidis joined AEK from Aris Salonika last year after impressing during the European Under-19 Championship for Greece.