There are 195 countries in the world today. Imagine a country where a football match is played, the home team scores a goal, the referee after consulting with his assistant for about 10 minutes(!) rules out the goal for offside.
Then the team owner whose team’s goal is disallowed storms the pitch in protest carrying a gun(!) for everyone to see, goes berserk, threatens the referee and gets an arrest warrant for his troubles. Then hours later the referee, who according to many reports was seen visibly shaken, even crying and mumbling “my wife is 7 months pregnant” decides that the goal stands, but the match was abandoned after the chairman’s pitch invasion. Let the Greek FA handle it.
There’s only one country that fits that description. Its name is Greece.
So the Superleague is suspended indefinitely, said Deputy Minister for Sport Yorgos Vasileiadis after an emergency meeting with PM Alexis Tsipras, adding that ‘It will not start again without a new framework agreed by all’. He is probably referring to a new framework where owners don’t use their teams for political purposes. Where the government doesn’t blatantly support businessmen with alleged connections to criminal activities, and where the anger-filled, easily manipulated fans don’t join the owner’s football army. Football activity has been suspended in Greece before. And not surprisingly nothing changed. Because the fans that just want to go to the stadium and enjoy the game, win or lose, are a minority. And because the majority of fans willingly participate in power struggles between millionaires that use their teams-and them- as a springboard for their various business ventures, always in cahoots with government officials.
According to reports, PM Tsipras said on Monday afternoon that ‘this story is going to end and everyone will shoulder responsibility. I don’t care about the political cost’. Alekos Flambouraris, his most trusted confidant and Minister of State for Coordinating Government Operations, has been frequently seen watching AEK games next to team owner Dimitris Melissanidis.
Minister of Finance and known PAOK fan Euclidis Tsakalotos uses PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis’ VIP suite to watch the club’s games when he can and the same vote-hunting has been going on for decades, from each and everyone governing body, with every major club in Greece.
Debts have been shaved off, championships have been won in court instead of the pitch, judiciary has gone out of the window because the team in question is popular and no one ever dared upset the apple-cart. The political cost in Greek football is something politicians brought upon themselves, when they traded away fairness for a few thousand votes from spoilt fans who will view that as the norm. And will always want more of the same.
The shambles that is Greek football cannot be detached from the state of total disarray in Greek society. For decades violence has been tolerated in every shape or form. Violence has also been called justifiable because it is ‘for the good of the realm’. And when there is no steep price to pay, when the law is nothing but a piece of paper (and unjust anyway) violence will only breed more violence. More blind hate. More ranting and raving. More cursing. More anger. More division. More disregard for everything that stands in our way for a championship, a Champions league berth, a chance to show who’s running things. After all, others have added to their trophy cabinet by threatening state officials that they will start a war against their party if they don’t facilitate team interests , by blackmailing judges, closing down roads, strong arming, even buying off other teams. Why shouldn’t we?
Per reports, Ivan Savvidis was wildly applauded by PAOK fans when he left the stadium on Sunday night. Fans swarmed him and yelled ‘way to go Mr Chairman’ as he was leaving in a hurry. Pablo Escobar was also worshiped when he practically owned Atletico Nacional. As were the other wealthy and powerful drug traffickers who were laundering their drug money in Colombia’s top clubs. Notorious Serbian warlord Arkan took Obilic from the football second-tier to the Champions League qualifying rounds. Arkan threatened opposing players if they scored against his team. His military unit men would even point pistols to the away team’s players during games. There were never any ‘Arkan out’ demonstrations from Obilic fans either. Their team was relevant.
And what now?
Rumors are flying that Greek Superleague action is done for the season and that state officials are considering, in accordance with UEFA, banning Greek teams from European competitions for a period of time, until they get their act together. Margaret Thatcher springs to mind. But let’s not forget that Thatcher pulled English clubs out of Europe after the Heysel tragedy just before UEFA was about to throw them out. And did so in order to push legislation designed to curb crowd violence. Margaret Thatcher didn’t have to deal with the Liverpool Chairman storming the pitch holding a pistol during a critical game against Manchester United because he wanted to ‘protect’ his team. Nor every Merseyside MP, even from her own party, claiming that the Chairman lost his nerve because a referee decision went against his club and he has invested heavily in the team and the region over the years and the law hasn’t applied for other teams in the past, so why must our team be the victim here? And that the fans have every right to protest as they see fit?
So, no, unless something otherworldly happens, the Greek Superleague will start again in 3 weeks. The champion will be decided in a court room, so they will be seen as a paper champion in the eyes of rival fans, a tainted piece of silverware that doesn’t even count. The government will proclaim a zero tolerance policy, promising to wield the axe to everyone that crosses the line and make football great again. But that won’t happen. Not when gun-carrying owners that only care to win by any means necessary get high-fived by adoring fans as they leave the stadium, in the press and on social media.