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Greek football's Trojan horse
by Thanos Kalamidas
2015-03-28 11:18:18
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According to many - especially politicians all around the world - Margaret Thatcher was the only person in power who managed to beat football hooliganism. After two tragic incidents and a lot of side troubles, Maggie literally shut out British football from international – mainly European – games and she enforced a series of hard measures against organized fans and the ones who would violate the laws.

As a consequence football hooliganism in Britain decreased dramatically and many politicians around the world started talking – they even do it today – about the Thatcher lesson. Or at least they thought so. However, since then there have been thousands of studies and essays about hooliganism; what causes hooliganism and if Maggie’s measures worked. The majority of them agree in one thing, the causes of hooliganism are not in football. Looking back and 30 years later, we all know that Maggie managed to beat hooliganism inside the football grounds temporary and actually moved the problem in the streets of the country.

We have also learned that organized fans are part of the solution not part of the problem, especially when handled as equals and not as suspects and prejudice, but they are also the easy victims of every authority. What also surfaced that period was that the invisible problem in professional football, – and perhaps the mother of all problems - was money and the people who handle the money connected to football. The best contemporary example of all the above is the most corrupted professional football in Europe and probably one of the most corrupted worldwide this moment, the Greek football.

Furthermore the situation with the Greek football mirrors how much corruption in the game has penetrated other sides of Greek state including justice, security forces and politics, using football as the Trojan horse.

The last few years a number of young people have died in the battlefield of football in Greece. While few of these incidents could be called accidents, most were murders to the point of intentional and plant cold blooded murders. Troubles inside football, basketball or even women’s volleyball stadiums have been so big that authorities were forced to interrupt games and riot police to interfere using smoke grenades and inexcusable force. However the state always acted as the ignorant neutral, the justice most of the time avoided responsibility and the legal Greek football authorities followed the dogma, “I don’t see, I don’t hear, I don’t speak”. In the meantime more people hurt, more young people died.

Football violence always existed and it was always in the limits of a tavern brawling were all sides share a drink after a good fight and in the end of the evening depart as friends till the next game. But that was the era of amateur football where money were not involved or at least were involved as the necessary part for the growth of the sport. It was the era of the colours. And it was the era where the sports clubs were part of the society contributing to the society.

Sports clubs used to be the place to keep kids away from gangs, drugs and alcohol. Sports clubs used to be the place for the crowds to defuse passions and perhaps escape from the daily life misery. Sports clubs also marked locality. The ideals of the home place, the feeling of something ours. How can you identify locality in a club like Manchester United nowadays when one of the biggest fan clubs of the team is in Japan.

All this was gradually lost when the clubs became companies with shareholders and interests in the stock-market. While a lot of fans might still believe in the colours, the owners of the shares started seen them as consumers that bring profits.

Furthermore the dogma “united we stand” has become “the more the merrier”. Victories and loses count in share profits and a player is good as long - he or she - bring money to the club by selling franchise. A very personal example will always be the case of David Beckham. An average player, with limited football talent has become a football icon due to his public appearances, his social life and self-promotion that most of the time has absolutely nothing to do with football per se. He actually uses football to promote underwear and his equally untalented wife; and he still does even though thankfully retired from the football fields.

oly01_400So nowadays football clubs owned by people who want profit and only profit for purely personal reasons and they aim for ways to increase this profit regardless the damage their actions might do to the sport itself and in long term to the fans of the sport. To do so they need obedient followers and not fans. They need followers with unquestionable faith that will buy any new jersey that the team brings out as long it has the name of the new star the team bought. Most of the time the new star is proved useless football player after a couple of months but until then the team has profited with the franchise they have sold to the faithful with his or her name.

They need obedient followers who will buy all the franchise and follow every single call of the team in the football ground or outside. They need followers who will not dare even think outside the cage the marketing and the franchise of the team has establish around them. Finally followers don’t need opponents. Opponents are for fans, followers need enemies. Enemies to hate. And hurt.

Now think the power one-two or ten millions of followers give to the owner of a football club. Is like creating a cult with fanatics with unquestionable faith who will follow you everywhere regardless legality of the actions. Brainwashed and trained to hate and obey.

You can manipulate local markets, you can manipulate football institutions, manipulate local authorities even manipulate policies and politicians with the power of a million fanatic followers behind you. You can actually blackmail decisions in every level of legislative, executive or judicial power in the country. Especially in an already questionable and corrupted system. All for your own profit, all nothing to do with football.

In Greece this moment there is this exact phenomenon. A questionable businessman is also the solemn president of a football team, member of a town council in the town where his team is based, voted exclusively by his team’s followers. Also coincidentally, the same town happens to host one of the biggest ports in Mediterranean and very close to his business interests. With investments in media and manipulating nearly a million unquestionable followers in a country that count nearly 5.5 million voters. Too many coincidences to be true. Suddenly even Berlusconi looks like an amateur.

My opinion is that the destruction of Greece is not only a consequence of incompetent politicians but also because of greedy corrupted oligarchs like the certain businessman; and absolutely nothing will change as long people like him continue to corrupt and manipulate. People like him don’t want corruption to end, this is where they thrive and they will fight in any legal or illegal, ethical or unethical way to keep it as it is.

The same time and while he keeps his faithful happy with the team “winning” all the time, as it is natural the feeling of unfairness increases between his team’s enemies and violence is becoming the next natural step. Is not a coincidence that 85% of the violence happens with his team in the center of the events. It is not a coincident that while all the teams share heavy punishments when something happens, his team always manages to escape from a state always acting as the ignorant neutral, a justice most of the time avoiding responsibility and the legal Greek football authorities following the dogma, “I don’t see, I don’t hear, I don’t speak”. It’s also not a coincidence that every time somebody dared to oppose or expose the corruption was later found beaten, fired from his or her work or with legal problems. A corrupted state and its services in the service of a bully and corrupted man who has no ability to act ethically and fair?

The new Greek government, after the latest violent incidents, decided to act and how did they do it? In the name of “fairness” demanding from all the fan clubs to close down. In the name of “fairness” all sports clubs share responsibility. Oddly the only fan clubs that can continue working are the ones in close cooperation with the football teams’ ownerships. Have a wild guess which only one football club in Greece nearly owns the fan-club of nearly a million faithful followers?

If the new Greek government wants to solve the problem, cannot do it by looking at it as an isolated form the society only football problem. The problem is political, is corruption and it demands political solutions. Demands the end of oligarchs with questionable agendas in football. By punishing the fans the only thing they manage to do is give more power to the fanatics and feed the corruption. Feed the corruption because the feeling is that when you cannot beat your cheating opponent you become a cheater yourself and try to finds your own oligarch to “win” you some troubles. Sadly some of the Greek teams already head this way.

More than twenty years ago Greek football was again in serious crisis and coincidentally that time in the centre of the crisis was another president of the same team. Coincidentally the whole scandal and the crisis had a strong political edge. If Greek authorities want answers and solution they must not look in legislations and new laws but in brave political decisions.


Another strange …coincidence is that often the certain team’s followers often enjoy the support of the Greek Nazis, followers of the Golden Dawn.

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Emanuel Paparella2015-03-28 16:30:07
You have it on target Thanos. At the original Greek Olympics games were played for their own sake and for the sheer pleasure of playing them. In our utilitarian times games are played for money and money is invariably a corrupting influence. We have made money one of our idols and it has finally caught up with us instead of "harmonia" we are now under the corrupting influence of "discordia". Indeed, as Socrates put it it: "corruption is faster than death and once it has caught up with one and has one in her grip, it may not let him go." Some sicknesses are unto death and are indeed worst than death.

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