Greek soccer player Giorgos Katidis has been banned from the country’s national team for life after celebrating a game-winning goal by making an apparent Nazi salute.
Katidis, a 20-year-old midfielder for AEK Athens, gave his team a 2-1 lead late in Saturday’s Greek soccer league game. He then sprinted to the right corner, pulled off his shirt and raised his right arm diagonally in the air with his palm facing the ground — a widely known sign for “Heil Hitler.”
Katidis, a Thessaloniki, Greece native, apologized on TV and denied that he was making the Nazi salute on Twitter, claiming that he was pointing to an injured teammate in the crowd. He wrote, according to the New York Daily News, “I am not racist in any way. I abhor fascism. I would not have done it if I knew that it meant something. I know the consequences and would not do it ever.”
The Hellenic Football Federation voted unanimously to exclude him from all national teams, calling his actions a “deep insult to all victims of Nazi brutality,” the Associated Press reported. He had previously played on Greek junior national teams.
AEK fans also issued a statement demanding Katidis’ release from the team, which could be penalized for the incident.
The act came on the day that Greece marked the 70th anniversary of beginning the deportation of its Jews to Nazi extermination camps during World War II.