Just not that smart

Just not that smart

AGONAsport’s Greg Gavalas discusses the plague that surrounds Greek football after Sunday’s events at the Toumba stadium in Thessaloniki. 

Watch the first leg of the Greek Soccer Cup semi-finals between Panionios/PAOK & Larissa/AEK LIVE from AGONAsport. Details here.

It was a mere two years ago that the Greek Cup saw four of the best five teams in Greece reach the semifinals, and the anticipation was immense.

PAOK was matched with Olympiakos and AEK squared off against Atromitos, but unlike two years ago, 2018 finds the same four teams battling it out for the championship.

The hugely anticipated matchups were a chance for Greek football to showcase the cream of the crop, while simultaneously giving Greek football fans across the diaspora, the chance to sit back and enjoy the rare spectacle. 

What we witnessed was a horribly--yet not uncommonly--officiated match at PAOK’s Toumba stadium, in which PAOK were denied a clear penalty at the end of a match after they were trailing by a single goal.  Things escalated and before you knew it, we were watching an all-out war between riot police and PAOK fans. Consequently, Olympiacos were awarded a 3-0 away win, while PAOK forfeited the return match (which resulted in an awarded 3-0 win to OSFP).  Prior to that, the tournament was officially canceled and we went week to week with a null-and-voided competition that became something of a soap opera as Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis tried his best to cancel the Super League outright. 

After weeks of red tape, FIFA and UEFA had to threaten the Greek Sports Minister with eliminating Greece from International Football.

The show that was meant to be, continued under closed doors for AEK and Atromitos, whilst the Cup Final between AEK and Olympiakos was played in an empty Olympic Stadium. What should have been a classic encounter between two rival football clubs in a packed stadium ended up being hamstrung by the childish punishment given to the clubs and to the 99.7% of fans who did nothing wrong.

In March 2014, Yannis Anastasiou--head coach of Panathinaikos at the time--was pelted with a large cup of Soda to the face at  Karaiskakis stadium. Yiannis continued and no one was punished.

Let’s recall November 2015’s dark day when the match between Panathinaikos and Olympiakos never kicked off due to… you guessed it, crowd violence. 

Now let’s go forward to February/March 2018, which had Greek football fans hyped for a week of the most important clashes in the current season:  PAOK vs Olympiakos and Atromitos vs AEK, all of whom are vying to win the closest Greek Championship race in recent memory, one in which Olympiakos is actually not looking like a title favourite for the first time since 1995 (but mathematically still in it). I wake up to not football but another big match abandoned; Olympiakos coach Oscar Garcia has a register roll thrown at him which has resulted in him suffering upper left edema, with superficial mucosal traumatic trauma, sensation in the left temporal joint, vomiting, dizziness, nausea, all of which need a 24 hour follow up. Now let’s be honest, vomiting and dizziness seem bit much given Garcia leaves the stadium with some wool on his lip.

The biggest issue comes back to the Greek Football culture. Given the silly drama of it all, one might think WWE president Vince McMahon was running the Super League.

The sad reality is we have less than 1% of fans ruining everything for everyone else, there needs to be some focus on catching the culprits and not punishing everyone.

In my previous piece about the culture of Greek Football, I mentioned people like Savvas Theodoridis, the Olympiakos vice-president who always blames the referee. I also mentioned Giorgos Savvidis, son of PAOK president Savvas Savvidis. 

Giorgos Savvidis is accountable for what has happened in the PAOK-Olympiakos match that never kicked off, will lead to a 3-0 win for Olympiacos on paper and PAOK will almost certainly lose 3 points, just like Olympiakos did a few weeks ago when their fans attacked police after their 2-1 home loss to AEK. I hold him accountable because, for the last few months, all he has done is the exact opposite of what Greek Football needs, ie., some maturity and level-headedness, he has called out Olympiacos week after week about this very game, and with the horrible record Greek football has in terms of crowd trouble, this is not needed. He does not need to rile up the PAOK fans any more than the “omadika” newspapers already do.

It’s entirely possible that the person who threw the register roll at Garcia’s face had their adrenaline going after weeks of hearing “We are waiting for you!” from Savvidis. 
The results of this are yet to be decided but the precedent has been set, and PAOK will not only lose 3-0 on paper again but get docked 3 points at a time they are the most in-form team on the planet having won 15 games straight.

As reported on AGONAsport, PAOK has also accused Olympiacos of planning their actions in advance in order to prevent the match from going ahead…

This simply highlights what I have said about the main problem plaguing Greek Football: there is zero accountability on behalf of the owners. Evangelos Marinakis, once questioned if it was Olympiacos fans that started the fights with riot police after the AEK game, and now PAOK is accusing Olympiacos of staging this attack on their own coach so they won’t play the match…

The issue is, we have people in power who want to keep passing the buck, continually exhibiting below-the-line behaviour which entails neglecting their rightful culpability, making excuses, pointing fingers, etc. This behaviour does nothing to improve the game. By letting this nonsense proliferate year after year, the owners are doing nothing to prove their intelligence which is really sad. These clubs--and indeed, the fans--should be above this.

Less than 0.5% of the fans are the ones who actually cause these issues. In other countries, when you go to a football stadium you cannot do what is so easily done in Greece. They have proper CCTV cameras set up to record events, the right security system in place to hold any individuals accountable for their actions. The Super League needs to stop penalizing the rest of the 99.5% who want to see the football match the way it should be--with loads of screaming fans chanting slogans, raising banners, singing, celebrating, and commiserating with their teams, win or lose.

Wake up, Greece. You need to change this. We have seen officiating improve, which is great. However, the crowd issues need to be properly fixed and we need to start targeting and punishing the individuals responsible for the problems, not the whole fanbase.

by Greg Gavalas
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