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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 February 2015
SPORT 28 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Greek identity in many leading clubs in Europe Billy Cotsis looks at the long-running history of Greek involvement in some of the world’s biggest football clubs It is fair to say that football was a creation of the ancient Greeks and Romans, playing a brand that required kicking 'balls'. The name given to the sport was episkyros by Antiphanes, eventually making its way to Rome, Alexandria and other cities. In Rome, the balls were first filled with air and as has been the custom in Italy ever since, football players would focus on their hairstyles and diving (see Italy vs Socceroos 2006 diving) as the key aspect of a match. Football was played in one form or another across the world until refined properly by the English in the nineteenth century into the beautiful game it became. I was particularly intrigued when I was in Italy to come across a team called 'Hellas Verona'. My Italian is a little rusty, but I am sure that read, 'Greek Verona'! The team was formed in 1903 and paying its tribute to the classics, the founders decided to reference Greece. Their first home ground was in an amphitheatre and blue as well as yellow represents them. They won the Serie A in 1985 and currently have one Greek player in their squad, Vangelis Moras. Unlike the south of Italy, where Greece has a rich history dating back 2,700 years, Verona is in the north and aside from 200300 years of Byzantine Greek rule, they have had minimal relations with Greece. Arguably (controversially) the biggest 'Greek' club in Europe is Marseilles, a team that has won nine titles and were once champions of Europe. In 1899, in honour of the anniversary of the founding of the city in 600BC by Phocians, the club was proclaimed Olympique de Marseilles. The club adopted the blue and white colours of Greece, with Olympique symbolising the ancient and modern Olympiad. Massalia, which I haven't visited since 2002, was the first Greek colony in the west to reach a population of over 1,000. It was a city that remained independent until 49BC when it was captured by Julius Caesar. The city was one of the last of the Greek colonies in the far west that retained its Greek character and language, holding on at least un- It is a nice tribute to the Greek world that a football team with no known association to Greece can provide such a significant recognition. til the arrival of the Visigoths in the fifth century AD and into the next. It came under Greek Byzantine rule from AD534 until the 700s. Greek was thought to have been spoken through the centuries by pockets of its citizens and received a boost in the 1800s as Greek merchants migrated there in large numbers. Massalia founded a number of other colonies in the region including Agathe, Olbia, Antipolis and Nicaea (Nice). Another city to add to the list is Monoikos (Monaco) and Alalia in Corsica. Having digressed a little, let me take you back to another football team. That of the mighty Herakles Almelo of The Netherlands which was founded in 1903 after the Kokkinakis out of Delray Beach Open Thanasi Kokkinakis was beaten by Ivo Karlovic in the second round of the Delray Beach Open Australian teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis has been defeated in the second round of the Delray Beach Open, succumbing to Ivo Karlovic. Karlovic, who turns 36 at the end of the month, defeated the 18-year-old 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2) this week. The fourth-seeded Karlovic, a runner-up at Delray Beach in 2010, moved into the quarter-finals, where he will face seventh-seeded Steve Johnson or 17-year-old Russian Andrey Rublev. Kokkinakis won his first ATP main draw match earlier this week, beating Serbia's Filip Krajinovic in the first round of the Open. Thanasi Kokkinakis PHOTO: EPA/TANNEN MAURY. Hellas Verona, an Italian team with a nod to the ancient Greeks. mythical (or was he?) hero, Hercules. They have won the Erevidisie in 1927 and 1941. Whilst they have no Greekborn players in their squad, they do have an Aussie with Greek heritage, Jason Davidson, playing and he is from the 'Greek' city of Melbourne. Having visited The Netherlands, there is no ancient or Byzantine Greek connection, though there is still a Greek community mainly based in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. One of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to is Prague, and it is fitting they have a team that won the first division on 35 occasions. They were established in 1893 and the name came to represent the courage and fighting spirit that they wanted from their players. Prague and most countries in this part of east Europe have had little to do with Hellenic history, though it is interesting that they selected ancient Sparta to be the name of the Czech Republic's most successful club. There may be other top flight teams in Europe that pay tribute to Greek history or identity, including some that use the Byzantine double headed eagle. It is a nice tribute to the Greek world that a football team with no known association to Greece can provide such a significant recognition. May the mythical Gods help them to keep winning! References: Hellas Verona, Olympique Marseilles, Sparta Prague, Herakles Almelo. First European Games to be screened on NERIT Greece’s public broadcaster will screen the opening and closing ceremonies of the Baku 2015 European Games, along with live coverage of the events The 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan have signed a broadcast deal with Greek state television NERIT to ensure this summer's inaugural event will be shown in the birthplace of the Olympics. New Hellenic Radio, Internet and Television (NERIT), the main public service provider in Greece, will broadcast live coverage of the first European Games on a daily basis, as well as the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies on its TV and online platforms. "It is fantastic to have signed this agreement with the national broadcaster in Greece, meaning Baku 2015 will be shown in millions more households in Europe," said Simon Clegg, chief operating officer of Baku 2015. Petros Mais, managing director of NERIT, said: "As the home of the ancient Olympic Games, Greece has a rich sporting history which is recognised and appreciated around the world. The first European Games is an im- Baku’s national stadium will host thousands of visitors for the first European Games. portant moment in European sport and we are very proud to be providing the coverage in our country." NERIT, a member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), was formed in 2014 after the abolition of the former Greek public service broadcaster, ERT.
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