Dimitris Siovas: The Hard Truth About the Ethniki and Greek Football
This piece was meant to be a factual summary of the comments Dimitris Siovas made in a wide-ranging interview. However, as I began writing, I have decided it’s time to put into words my disdain for the current setup of our national team. So, opposition fans will want to turn away, and the fans who support this John Van't Schip/Grammenos sham of a national team may also want to turn away. The inspiration for this piece? Dimitris Siovas made his first public comments since his ejection from the Greek National Team in an interview conducted by Sport24 and Pantelis Diamnatopoulos. The interview was wide-ranging and long, so this article will not be a complete summary by any means. I will highlight some of the comments I found interesting for us as Olympiakos and Ethniki fans. If you are further interested in the interview you can find it here. I HIGHLY recommend that if you understand Greek to listen to it in its entirety.
I also want to start this article and say that I support our Greek national team and hope for the team to win every time it touches the pitch. I have already gotten and will be waiting for the criticism that “the national team is above all else and we must support them.” But the actions taken by John Van't Schip and the Hellenic Football Federation have disgusted me and deserve criticism. Listening to Dimitris Siovas- one of the best Greek footballers in the world- talk about the national team and how he was excluded from the team was difficult. The national team has become something that it never can be: political. There is a witch hunt against some of the best football players this country has. Whether it be Fortounis, Manolas, Sokratis, or Siovas, ever since that embarrassing night in OAKA against Armenia, it is clear an agenda has been set.
Whether Van't Schip has come to this agenda on his own or not doesn't matter. What does matter is that there is an agenda against certain players. Does anyone remember after the calamity of a game against Slovenia when John Van't Schip took to the media to criticize Fortounis, his playing time at Olympiakos, and his fitness? Openly criticizing the best-attacking player Greece has on PAOK owner Savvidis' OpenTV. Fortounis didn't take the bait, and he responded with dignity each time. However, how unprofessional, belittling, and ridiculous of a coach? This is the same coach who has found it impossible to criticize or substitute some of the most mediocre players I have ever seen wear the national team jersey.
Siovas highlighted this "fishing" that Van't Schip and his staff were conducting. The coaches seemingly were tempting players such as Siovas and Fortounis to make a statement against their flawed project. As soon as they heard something they didn't like, they would banish the players from the national team, an event that would subsequently come true when Siovas made benign comments about the return of Manolas and Sokratis.
However, the problem doesn’t just concern Van't Schip, as he clearly has been supported by a number of backroom staff who inform him. Siovas hinted at this heavily. Whether it be putting certain players in a negative light or translating news in a certain way, the backroom staff have built a toxic working environment, which favors mediocrity over talent. This backroom staff needs to go, including former Euro 2004 heroes who will not be mentioned here. This national team needs to return to a merit-based system which allows our best to flourish. Siovas, a player making a career at the highest level, highlighted how going abroad has made him see how behind our football is. The amount of politics being played and the treatment of players is unacceptable.
Like Sokratis has said in the past, Siovas believes that it is now his turn to nourish some of Greece's young talent. As players who have experienced it all abroad, wouldn't it be nice for Manolas, Sokratis, or Siovas to mentor young talents such as Giannis Michailidis and Pantelis Chatzidiakos? Siovas correctly pointed out that his career was launched by playing and learning alongside national heroes like Giorgos Karagounis and Vassilis Torosidis. These players would explain the next steps for a player playing in Greece, what it's like playing abroad in certain leagues, and how to be an excellent national team player. Who is that on this current national team? A Giorgos Tzavellas who has peaked on a mid-table Turkish team or a Tasos Bakasetas who has also peaked for a mediocre Turkish team? We are being led by mediocrity.
I don’t want to continue hitting on players such as Tzavellas or Bakasetas because it's not their fault that they have been put in a position of power. They have been placed there by the hierarchy of our football federation and John Van't Schip. The young players deserve better. We, as Greeks, deserve better.
This interview by Siovas, as damning as it was on the incompetence of John Van't Schip, really hit at a bigger problem. Our national team is run and organized by a few cynical forces who are punishing our best for pushing out Angelos Anastasiadis after the debacle against Armenia. Everything comes back to that night against Armenia. The players who play at the top correctly pointed out what a clown of a coach Anastasiadis was. They said it publicly and privately. They are now being punished for it. People can continue to believe the lies of EPO and their propaganda newspapers, but there is no youth revolution, and there is no sound reasoning for this situation.
The situation is damming and one I don’t foresee changing under Zagorakis. And that is why I have lost interest in this national team. I love the team and love our country, but the actions taken by the men at the top are something I cannot support. I cannot spend my money supporting this organization that is destroying our football.
Now I want to quickly run through what Siovas has said about Olympiakos.
Unlike what you just read about our national team, the comments made about Olympiakos and our future are much more optimistic. Siovas spoke exceptionally highly of President Marinakis, who allowed Siovas to leave for Spain for cheap to make a career. Marinakis has always been there for Siovas and the former players, letting them know top-class players like them are always welcome home.
Finally, Siovas laid out a dream that I know a lot of us have. A return of him and Manolas in the near future to take us to the next level. Siovas has made clear Manolas's return is imminent. It isn't a matter of if but a matter of when. As you all I'm anxiously awaiting the return of one of our favorite players ever. A defensive unit of Manolas, Sokratis, and Siovas is something that every Olympiakos fan would love. These men who have played at the highest level could lead us to magical European nights.
For our sake, I hope Siovas and Manolas are back in Piraeus sooner rather than later. Also, for our sake, I hope John Van't Schip and the cronies at the Greek Football Federation are gone. As a country, we want our national team back, and I hope that day is sooner rather than later.
Until then, with red and white love.