Greek Football Culture

Greek Football Culture

AGONAsport’s Greg Gavalas talks about the Greek football culture, the faults that come with it and the potential that exists if changes are implemented on all fronts.

Watch the all-important SuperLeague derby between Olympiacos & AEK LIVE from on Sunday, February 4th as the two clubs fight for this year's SuperLeague title!

Greek Football is an interesting beast to say the least, we have history and passion, you have supporter groups like most places in the world and you have the pros and cons that come with that. Then you have the teams and players, officials and presidents etc…

Overall, in line with the austerity measures imposed on Greece due to its economic down fall from a few years ago, we have seen the level of teams overall take a similar dip. When once we would wait for the big signings like Rivaldo, Giovanni, Gilberto Silva, Krzystof Warzycha, Predrag Djordjevic, Zlatko Zahovic, Djibril Cisse, Marcus Berg, Juan Jose Borelli, Nacho Scocco and so on… the economic downfall has had an effect on our teams which is now very visible in European football and is best summarised in UEFA’s Association club Coefficients standings, Greece has now dropped to 15th, far away from been 7th in the mid 00’s.

It’s a big drop from just the 90’s and 00’s, but we are seening similar trends in social Greek issues and that of the football world, instead of looking to the future and setting up a foundation to build from, which is what most of the better performing nations did at some point, Greece failed to really capitalise on the moment that united all Greek football fans – when we won Euro 2004.

Euro 2004 was won on a couple of key ingredients that don’t come every day in the Greek football world or one may argue Greek sociological world too.

One was discipline, Otto Rehhagel knew what he wanted and no “too cool for school” character was going to get by this (Georgatos, Zikos), the other was hard work with no short cuts, the team took it on themselves and worked their butts off in every game, taking an above the line approach to the tournament, meaning they owned what was in front of them. They took on the responsibility of shutting down France, Czech Republic, Spain, and Portugal.

We see, when Greeks do it right they get results, things happen, however there is another side to this, what happened after the Tournament? The Greek Football Federation (EPO) did not want to disclose their financials, this happened for some years, during which, Greece enjoyed the luxury of major tournaments in European Championships and World Cups, for the first time ever, we experienced our first FIFA World Cup goal, thanks to Dimitris Salpingidis and our first World Cup win in the same game against Nigeria (2-1).

Despite the highs and unity of these experiences, Greek Football still finds itself behind the eight ball given the fall of the League standings. The National Team is now 47th in the world thanks to the disaster Euro 2016 qualification campaign and for whatever reason… The national team is a heaven for older past it footballers instead of the young and promising footballers that can make a difference.

This brings me back to the Greek Football Culture which sadly, one is safe to say, keeps Greek Football at a standstill much like the motherland is experiencing now in general.

One of the biggest issues I have with Greek Football is the obsession with the referee… Ok, we know one team has won the Greek Super League 18 times in the last 20 years, that team being Olympiakos and from 1996-2013 it’s hard to say Olympiakos did not benefit from some very questionable calls, so one has to be excused when one of the biggest voices coming out on a weekly basis this season and last season, is Olympiakos Vice President Savvas Theodoridis, crucifying referee’s when by season’s past the bias has not been there. Some of his calls have been laughable and even Olympiakos fans have been embarrassed of them, he even went as far as saying after the Xanthi match (3-0 win) it was the first good game by the referee.

This does not help the culture of Greek Football, but not just Theodoridis, the presidents in general, need to stop commenting on negatives about referees and look at the big picture. Another man doing great damage to the game is Giorgos Savvidis, the son of PAOK President, Ivan Savvidis, only this week he has made a social media message (after PAOK’s win over Panetolikos) saying “I wait for you personally!!! In Toumba!!! Parta Ola!! Bravo PAOK!! Against Everyone!!! Family!!” The message is believed to be targeted towards Olympiakos… Given what happened in the Cup final last season between PAOK and AEK fans, this is really not the time to be encouraging those disgraceful scenes which is what the message encourages, but so is the situation in Greece. Away fans are not allowed in rival teams home matches, however, when a Cup Final happens and you need to integrate both groups of fans more often than not, violence is the result which again highlights the situation and why people in power should be setting an example and not encouraging or continuing the backwards thinking and finger pointing which culminated in below the line thinking and behaviours of Greek Culture. As such, Greeks are blaming others for what’s happened instead of taking ownership of the situations and look for solutions.

This is highlighted in the many team based news papers and social media pages, which go around a merry go round every week, for example, AEK was poor vs Larisa a few weeks back, the match finished 0-0 and AEK did not create many chances. One social media page instead pointed the finger at the referee for a poor performance, likewise in AEK’s 0-0 draw with Olympiacos, a match the referee calls 50-50, one social media page was only focused on an incident and how a player should have received a red card…

For those familiar with above the line vs below the line behaviours, Greek football is stuck in a below the line world, that’s not good, it's about blame, the victim card, finding faults, denying things and excuses, there is seldom above the line behaviours such as accountability, solutions, taking action, take responsibility and owning it.

Will this ever happen? Maybe one day not right away, it needs someone to lead by example but also needs others to see the benefits of this and creating a better understanding of the game and creating some better football IQ.

Demi Nikolaidis looked down this path in the mid 00’s but politics at the time buried that forward thinking, this involved holding thugs accountable at stadiums, at the present, a thug can go to a stadium, create havoc, throw things on the field and get away with it, when Demi proposed this, some fans saw this as a “dog act” to put it in perspective.

One can hope but it’s going to take a very long uphill road to see a Greek football culture that understands the game better, the referees and the potential our national team has, where ironically enough, the Greek fan is happy with a good effort and players past their used by date getting regular call ups…  

If we can all do out bit I am sure we can help steady the tide and educate the finger pointing cry-babies, who can learn a thing or two about the beautiful game that is Hellenic Football and the potential it holds.


by Greg Gavalas

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