Friday Frappé: A Place to Call Home
In this week’s edition of the Friday Frappé, AGONAsport’s Peter Katsiris discusses how the Greek National Team’s struggle to relocate is just a sign of the times for the Ethniki...
Fans of Greek football rejoiced as Greece shocked their European counterparts to capture top honours at UEFA EURO 2004. Nearly a decade-and-half later, the Greek National Team is in disarray on and off the field, as demonstrated by the Ethniki’s inability to swiftly secure a venue for their upcoming EURO 2020 qualifiers.
Why the move? Well, after a violent incident at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium claimed the life of a fan, Greece were always going to be on the move from their longstanding home in Piraeus.
It’s safe to say that the idea of relocating to nearby OAKA hasn’t quite gone to plan. While OAKA might provide electric atmospheres for AEK and Panathinaikos fixtures, Greece’s support on the road in Tallinn, Budapest, and Tampere ended up rivalling the support Greece received at home.
The EPO’s push to relocate Greece’s future games to the Toumba Stadium in Thessaloniki was shot down by PAOK’s Gate 4 supporters’ group as the group cited grievances with the EPO as a reason to thwart the National Team’s move north.
It now appears certain that the Ethniki will call the Pankritio Stadium in Heraklion as their home venue for the upcoming UEFA EURO 2020 qualifiers come next year, and while Greece have fared well in Crete in the past, the process leading up to the selection of Pankritio is another blow to the Ethniki’s prestige.
Among other things, it is clear that Greece’s failure to qualify for recent tournaments – not mention the disastrous UEFA Nations League campaign – has taken a massive toll on the support for the National Team – at least in terms of those keen to attend games.
In fact, it’s another bullet point in the ‘What have you done for me lately?’ type of relationship the Ethniki has with its fans as club football continues to be better supported than the National Team. Perhaps a shift to a less-frequented venue like Pankritio will help to drive fans to attend games come 2019 as Greece looks to book a spot at EURO 2020.