Why All Greeks Should Pull for a PATRIOTI at Euro 2016
by Sarantos Kaperonis
UEFA Euro 2016 is well underway despite Greece’s absence from the tournament for first time since 2000. While the European Championships will be the highlight of the summer for all soccer fans, the absence of our national team makes it quite different for us Greeks.
Only four teams wait to make their debut at Euro 2016. The acclaimed spotlight is on Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portugal National Team in Group F. Yet, as Greek fans, our attention should be turned elsewhere on Portugal’s team. Former Greek National Team coach, Fernando Santos, is in charge of Portugal at Euro 2016 and has high hopes of taking his country far in the tournament. Santos is a familiar name in Greek Soccer, as he has coached AEK (twice), Panathinaikos, and PAOK, in addition to our National Team. He coached Greece for 4 years, taking over after Otto Rehhagel, and led the Galanolefki to two major tournaments (UEFA Euro 2012 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup). At both competitions, Greece progressed out of the Group Stage, making it to the quarter-finals at Euro 2012 and the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil (lost to Costa Rica in penalties). His time with Greece ended after the World Cup, when he was unethically ousted by the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) under President Georgios Sarris. Ranieri took over the national team for Euro 2016 Qualifying and ultimately led us to the position we are today, a Euro 2016 without Greece.
Santos’ success with Greece is remarkable; he put Greeks back on the streets to celebrate during a time where a financial crisis surrounded the Greek people and their daily morale. But it is not only Santos’ success that makes him an “icon” in Greek soccer. It is his love for Greece and the Greek people. In multiple interviews, he has stated that he feels Greek, more Greek than Greeks themselves, and that he loves the people and the country very much. He views our patrida like a second home. In an interview with the Daily Press in November 2011, he stated, “I am a Greek citizen, I do my taxes here. When I am in Greece, I feel and think like a Greek. I have many Greek friends and when I am in Portugal, I always have one ear on what is happening in Greece.” Before the Euros in 2012, he mentioned, “there is no one that feels more Greek than me.” As a sports fan, I constantly listen to interviews from coaches and players. Yet, one interview has stuck with me forever. After Greece’s win against Russia in the final group match of Euro 2012 that allowed them to advance to the quarter-finals, a British journalist “tested” Santos with a political question in regards to Greece’s upcoming game with Germany.
The reporter asked, “Angela Merkel has said that the Greeks need to accept austerity, should she really keep quiet and does that inspire you in your preparations if you are to play Germany next?” Being that it was a political question, Santos was not obligated to answer, but the response he gave was simply perfect. He answered “No, Greece’s history inspires. It inspires me greatly, because the Greek people have tremendous pride for their history and they deserve the respect from everyone. We should all respect the Greeks because of democracy, science, and so many other principles that started in Greece. That is why it is extremely difficult for anyone to teach us a lesson.”
SANTOS INTERVIEW EURO 2012
A Greek scarf adorned Santos responded to the provocative question in an extraordinary way. An answer like that, which is rarely seen in sports, only comes from the heart and it exemplifies what Greece means to Fernando Santos.
At the beginning of the tournament, Portugal was a 17:1 favorite to win Euro 2016. For the first time in many years, there is no clear favorite at this year’s European Championships. Based on the odds, the host country of France are deemed the favorites, followed by Germany and Spain. With the defensive tactics that Santos loves to implement and with Portugal housing arguably one of the best players in the world (Ronaldo), count on Santos’ men to put on a good show at Euro 2016. Santos’ defensive tactics are key in tournaments like these and he can lead his country to European glory. Just like Fernando Santos has shown his respect to Greece and Greeks everywhere, it is our time to give our “patrioti” the support he deserves and needs at this summer’s European Championships!