Greek football’s ugly reflection
After a long and seemingly endless international break, all of Greece and Greek football lovers around the world couldn’t wait to watch the ‘Derby of the Eternals’. Alas, the main talking points once more concern things that happened outside the four lines of the football pitch. Last night's events, regardless of the team you support were tragic. The ensuing narratives that have come out of the game have stooped to a new low.
WE ARE REALLY DISCUSSING WHETHER OR NOT A FIRECRACKER WAS “THROWN TOO CLOSE TO THE BENCH" OR WHETHER "IT ACTUALLY HIT THE PLAYER OR NOT?”.
Let that sink in. Firecrackers, which endanger fans and players’ safety should NEVER be brought to the match, PERIOD. Imagine if the individual that threw this missed the pitch and it landed in the stands where children sit? Someone could have been seriously injured.
Hooliganism is a serious problem in Greece and real measures need to be taken to stop it. Over the past years, players from different clubs, including our own, have been injured because of missiles thrown onto the pitch. Violence has spread from the scene of sporting events out onto the streets of our cities. Civilians have been murdered in this country for supporting the “wrong club”! This discussion doesn’t end with football and sport. It’s a topic that runs deep in Greek society on many different levels (political, sociological, legal, economic etc) and it will take more than Greek football stakeholders taking action to deal with the root causes.
Greek stadiums are notorious around the world for their fervent environment. The atmospheres the fans provide are an incredible draw to the sport in our country and we have no problem with fans lighting flares/fireworks BEFORE the match. No one does it like the fans in Greece. But when this disrupts the team and safety of others, it needs to stop. Almost two years ago now, Olympiacos released a statement underlining they would crack down on individuals who light flares/firecrackers in the midst of games (destroying our momentum after goals). We have yet to see those words turn into action. Incidentally, this statement came after another Olympiacos vs Panathinaikos clash at the Karaiskakis Stadium. We urge PAE Olympiacos to rise above the toxicity and condemn the actions of this individual and act on its promise nearly two years ago to never let this happen again in our stadium.
This season, Olympiacos sold over 20,000 season tickets. Most fans buy those tickets to secure their place at the Georgios Karaiskakis for these types of games. Will they be compensated for yesterday’s events and what about the following matches which could take place behind closed doors (NB. Next home match is against PAOK)? Moreover, we’d like to remind readers that Olympiacos is a club with thousands of fans across the world including Greeks of the diaspora and foreign admirers whom we’ve had the pleasure of meeting along our own journey. As an international initiative, we have met Olympiacos fans from across Europe and around the world at Georgios Karaiskakis traveling from as far out as Australia or the west coast of the USA to come and watch their favourite team in action. We can’t imagine the disappointment and frustration they must be feeling if they attended last night’s game. The person that threw the firecracker cost them a raft of money on traveling, accommodation and of course the game tickets. More importantly, this selfish act cost them a once-in-a-lifetime experience of watching their club’s most historic derby. A derby that is advertised as Greek football’s highlight of the season and one of the most highly-anticipated football rivalries in world football.
Regarding the actions of Panathinaikos officials during and after the match. We do not pretend to know anything about the match doctor, his affiliations or anything else. Regardless, It’s UNTHINKABLE that a PROFESSIONAL football club’s social media account would deliberately implicate a doctor in corruption and invite violence and threats of violence to someone WHO IS THEIR OWN SUPPORTER.
The state of Greek Football is an embarrassment and makes it extremely difficult to promote such a mess to the world outside Greece. Moreover, as long as these events persist, the harder it will get for the Greek Superleague to create an attractive and sustainable business case for more investment into Greek football and sport.
We understand that yesterday’s events evoke broader issues outside of football; societal questions that plague Greece and Greek society. Unfortunately, last night’s events don’t constitute an isolated incident. Yesterday it was at the Karaiskakis. Tomorrow it could be at Leoforos. The day after at OPAP Arena or Toumba. Hooliganism and violence in sport and society will sadly continue unless State actors and relevant stakeholders come together and take drastic measures.
As fans of the greatest sport in the world and the biggest club in Greece and the Balkans, we believe that fans from all corners of society should be able to enjoy a sporting event on the weekend together with friends and family in an environment that is safe and secure. This is the bare minimum that should be afforded to fans and it should not be seen as a fantasy or unattainable utopia. It’s time to get back to basics. Sport is supposed to unite and bring people together. A football match is a celebration not war.
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