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Another Greek tragedy Another Greek tragedy
by Thanos Kalamidas
2006-11-02 10:37:06
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While thinking about how to write this article a new question was raised. Is it sports or politics, or is it even society? The theme is violence in the sports grounds and the catalyst for talking about it happened in the Greek basketball and football stadiums last weekend.

Over the last few years, especially after 2004, Greece has lived some really glorious times. The European Football Cup, the Olympic Games, second place in the World Basketball Championships, dozens of records and fantastic moments for both team and individuals, but over the last three weekends in football and basketball violence has overshadowed everything else.

I’m not going to analyze what’s the cause of hooliganism, this is something psychologists and sociologists far more informed than me have analyze since the early-80s when the phenomenon started in English football grounds. In short, the result was that hooliganism has partly to do with the sports and is mainly a social phenomenon.

Unemployed and inexperienced youth in front of a demanding and competitive work environment leads to anger, furthermore a boring life without dreams and causes can lead to this weekend’s explosion in the sports arena that have nothing to do with the game. These people don’t go to watch a game; they are going there to have a fight.

But I’m going to stop after what I heard from the official state with a minister interviewed on the radio, the head of the police and finally the representative figure of the super league, supposedly the leading official of the Greek professional football. All of them started blaming each other and, yes, accepting that they have responsibilities, but the others have more – something I find totally childish – and then all of them, like an ancient tragedy chorus, blamed the fans.

I’m a football fan and there is a team I support. This is part of the game and I never believe people who say that they don’t support a team and they are just fans of the game. These people are missing the point. I love watching a game. Furthermore, I love being there. I love the whole ritual, which includes the songs, the biting of the nails, the screaming, even the sore throat after the game.

I have seen a lot of games in my life since the early-70s and I have seen football, basketball and handball games. I have been in football grounds with thousands of fans and I have been in an empty stadium because my team was punished to play without its fans. Actually, that has happened twice and even though my team won I didn’t feel any joy. Because the fans are part of the game.

Coming to the official announcement and first of all the state. The state makes the laws and the state is responsible for the uneasiness in the population, so when there is a youth that needs to explode in violence then the state has the responsibility to investigate and come up with solutions. This brings us to the second announcement by the police, who are part of the state.

The police have the obligation to ensure that there is order at any event. The excuse I heard from the police chief that our responsibility stops at the entrance of the stadium sounds very poor and shows lack of cooperation. To have a solution, all parts must cooperate and the police must do their job. If I had a party and somebody breaks the law, is it my responsibility because it is inside my house? This excuse sounds even more childish because this is a hell of a big party that includes 40-50,000 supporters in a public area.

I don’t expect the police to be there in full body armor with gas bombs and ready to break some bones, but I’m expecting the police to ensure that no weapons enter the stadium, that there is a control on alcohol and drugs, and that known troublemakers will reach the stands.

On that part I’m expecting the full cooperation of the teams, since all the teams have cameras inside the stadiums and they can tell who the troublemaker is. Following the example of England, the tickets must have the name and address of the holder so if any trouble occurs they know who to ask for. I’m expecting the state to take care of the problem and not imprison some youth feeling that this way they solved the problem.

I left the leadership of the professional football association or super league as they like to call themselves to last. I have to admit that on the morning of the announcement President Petros Kokalis was unacceptable and his decision to point out who is really responsible for all the trouble was worse. Remember, we are not looking for the young boy who’s throwing the rock, but for the one who’s behind that boy and, in my opinion, this association is the main responsible.

After spending over five minutes accusing the state for failure, he turned it into a drama by accusing these people of destroying his business. He repeated these words often and ended up accusing the fans, whom he was also saying are the living organism of football. I have to admit I never heard before more hypocritical words.

To start with, I hate the idea of one man considering the fans and football as his profit that means he has no idea of what football is and why these people go Sunday after Sunday to the football grounds. If he’s right and football is his business field, then he has no reason asking responsibility from the police or the state. If he has problems with his company he shouldn’t call the police, but find ways to sort it out.

The fans are not going to a football game to give him profit, they are going to watch football with their team; seeing them as profit underestimates the sport and he had better resign here and now. At the same time, we all know who is who. Mr. Kokalis funds a fans’ television channel, a few newspapers and he even often appears himself with provocative announcement before games - blaming the fans, but not all the fans, what does he want to say?

Does he mean that the others are bad, but the team of which he’s a puppet president are not troublemakers? How can he explain the fact that all the problems caused at Saturday’s basketball game, which took place in a stadium that hosted ONLY one team’s fans, were coincidentally his team’s fans? Worst of all, after interviews like that, he shows that he doesn’t work for the good of Greek football and basketball, but for the good of his very own pocket, interests and, in extent, the team he owns. Actually, the man is no different from all the troublemakers.

So, it is like letting the wolf guard the sheep! What must happen? First of all the state, the police and the football teams must cooperate (not ambitious presidents that see football as a field for profit) and root out the troublemakers and punish them (not sending them to prisons, but by following the English example of guarding them). Respect the people who actually bring the money to the game and are part of the game, the fans should not make easy stereotypes, whereby belonging to a fan club makes you as a troublemaker. It is time to share this responsibility!

  
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