Detained Burnley fans who missed Olympiakos match were "set up"
Despite spending over Â£1,000 on hotels, tickets, and flights to Athens for the once-in-a-lifetime match, Alan Croasdale missed the game along with dozens of his fellow Clarets supporters after a coach advertised as being designated to take Burnley fans from the fan-zone to the match at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium instead took them to a separate building entirely.
Upon arrival, the fans were asked for their IDs and detained without charge in what Alan claims was an effort to scapegoat a selection of travelling supporters and vilify them as being drunk and disorderly when this was not the case.
"The only coach that was at the fan-zone was this black police coach, and there were these people - we thought they were stewards - saying 'going to Olympiakos? Are you Burnley fans? You get on here,'" said Alan (58). "So we got on. Nobody was being raucous, nobody was being cheeky, nobody was singing or falling over."
Stephen Trundle, who was also on the bus, added: "On the coach, everybody was in a good mood looking forward to seeing the Clarets play. To say the whole group were 'drunk and disorderly' is bending the facts by a gargantuan extent. Most of us had had a few drinks over the course of the day but I didn’t, nor did anyone I spoke to after the event, see anything that would fairly be described as drunk and disorderly."
Alan continued, saying: "Next minute, we pulled up outside this building and we go into this corridor and there were people waiting to take our names - it was all set up. Because a Burnley fan had got stabbed and some had been robbed, they must've been out to detain some Burnley fans and portray us in a bad light.
"All the bad press was about Olympiakos, they wanted to turn around and say 'we arrested 20-odd of them,'" Alan continued. "If you read 'English fans detained', you go oh, right, typical Brits abroad. You don't think 50- or 60-odd-year-old blokes. We were just in the right place at the wrong time."
Stephen said: "We were marched up several flights of stairs and forced into two or three separate rooms and then had the door slammed shut. The temperature was unbearable. We asked the police what we had done wrong, to which they replied 'you have done nothing wrong'. We asked the police if we were being arrested, to which the replied 'no, not at all'."
A lifelong Clarets fan, Alan also attended the match against Basaksehir in Turkey, although one of his friends had the profound misfortune to miss that game as well as the Olympiakos match after his connecting flight to Istanbul was delayed. According to Alan, his friend had spent over Â£3,000 and had not seen a ball being kicked.
"I've saved up my holidays: you've got to take these opportunities when you can because they'll never come around in my lifetime again," said Alan, who is from Great Harwood. "I never though I'd see us in the Premier League in my lifetime, let alone in Europe. It's something to tell my kids and grand-kids, so for it to be spoiled like this for no logical reason..."
Worried that the incident in Greece may lead to a misunderstanding and the club banning him from Burnley games in the future, Alan - who is set to attend the home leg of the tie - said: "We want to say that we haven't brought the club's name into disrepute - if we have, we apologise - and that we're innocent victims."
Stephen added: "What I find most upsetting about the behaviour of the Greek authorities is that so many Burnley fans had spent their hard-earned money to travel all that way for one reason: to watch their team play. We did not travel to cause trouble."
Trying to focus on the positives of Burnley's European adventure, Alan added: "It's a dream come true [to be in Europe]; it will live with me for the rest of my life.
"I can die happy: I've seen my club win at Wembley, get to the Premier League, go to Europe, and be mentioned alongside the biggest teams in this country," he added. "All my family are Blackburn fans, so I've waited 30-odd years to get the upper hand on them.
"We're putting Burnley on the world map, so for something like this to happen and take it away from us is heart-wrenching."