Schalke slams police action during match with PAOK

Police have defended using pepper spray and batons against

Schalke fans displaying a Macedonian banner during the Champions

League qualifying match against Greek club PAOK, saying they feared

dead and injured if rival supporters clashed.

Schalke criticized the local police and said its response to the

tension was ”disproportionate.”

But police chief Klaus Sitzer, who commanded the police units at

the match, said the measures were ”the mildest but necessary

response to preserve security at the match.”

Sitzer said Thursday that about 2,000 Greek supporters had

threatened to invade the pitch and attack Schalke fans because they

felt provoked by the banner.

”In such a case life and limb of many would be threatened, even

those uninvolved,” police said in an earlier statement.

The police then decided to remove the banner by force and used

pepper spray because officers were attacked by sticks and kicked as

they moved in. Police said 30 people needed medical attention and

had to have their eyes washed out.

”The banner doesn’t justify the threat of violence by Greek

fans,” Schalke managing director Peter Peters said.

Peters also criticized Greek police officers at the game for

”twisting the facts” and that the German police had reacted to

recommendations from their Greek colleagues.

Earlier, PAOK fans set off firecrackers and flares at

Gelsenkirchen’s train station and two of them were detained,

according to the police.

Greece has a long-running dispute with Macedonia over the former

Yugoslav republic’s name and says only its northern province can be

called by that name.

Some Schalke fan groups have a friendly relationship with

supporters of the Macedonian club Vardar Skopje.

Wednesday’s match ended in a 1-1 draw. PAOK fans were banned

from three home UEFA matches in Thessaloniki because of clashes

with supporters of Rapid Vienna during a Europa League match last

season.