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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 June 2016
SPORT 26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 11 JUNE 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM PHOTOS: CONSTANTLY FLASHING. Greece-Aus friendly a win for Victoria While Greece was the winning team, both sides revelled in the Australian sporting spirit Tuesday night's game reaffirmed Victoria's reputation as the nation's sporting capital, with more than 33,500 people turning out for the friendly between the Greek national football team and the Socceroos. "The GCM (Greek Community of Melbourne) congrat- ulates the Victorian government and in particular the Minister for Sport John Eren for making this match happen," said GCM president Bill Papastergiadis. Hosted at Etihad Stadium, the match saw Greece steal the show with an impressive goal from the halfway line by Manasis dancers wow soccer spectators Before Greece's second stunning goal, it was the Manasis School of Greek Dance and Culture that stole spectators' attention at Tuesday night's friendly match between Greece and the Socceroos. The Manasis dancers made the most of the spotlight as the official pregame entertainers, with their impressive high energy choreography. "Our participation was a roaring success," school director Dimosthenis Manasis told Neos Kosmos. "And it was intermittently reaffirmed with the roars, cheering and applause we received from game attendees!" The evening's performance was yet another example of how the school is changing the way folklore and culture are presented, not only for their fellow Greeks but to the wider Australian community. "The days of panigiria and concerts are not over - they still exist - but we have brought Greek folk dance and culture to a niche that normally isn't associated with it," Mr Manasis said, citing the group’s participation at formal dinners, corporate and sporting events. Aside from thanking Etihad's event management staff and crew for their warm reception and countless hours of preparation, Mr Manasis also recognised the committment and hard work of the senior dancers, as well as the thousands of spectators who helped contribute to the ambience, even doing a bit of dancing themselves. "You guys rock! This would have been one of the biggest zorba circles in history," he added. defender Ioannis Maniatis. However, aside from the sporting prowess on display on the field, the event was also a chance to showcase the best that the Greek community and culture have to offer, resulting in an exciting carnival atmosphere that preceded and continued through the event that was populated by families and children. "The event is a great example of this city's cosmopolitan and multicultural identity. The pre-match dance groups and entertainment on the stadium concourse and the carnival atmosphere in the stadium are a great tes- tament to major events held in this city," said Mr Papastergiadis. There were disruptions during the night, however, with a handful of irresponsible patrons illegally lighting flares. While the GCM openly condemned these actions, director of the Greek Centre Jorge Menidis says this should not take away from the well-executed event. "Last night [Tuesday] over 33,000 people attended a great sporting and cultural event. The actions of two or three irresponsible people should not cloud this fact," he said. Skibbe hopes for Greece-Socceroos reunion in Russia GEORGE STOGIANNOU New Greek national team coach Michael Skibbe could be forgiven for wishing Greece could play its home games in Melbourne, for although Tuesday night's crowd at Etihad was just over 33,000, it still significantly outnumbered the 5,000 or so that attended Greece's last two home games against Montenegro and Iceland at Karaiskaki stadium in March. Granted, Montenegro and Iceland are hardly major football drawcards, but still the coach could not help but notice the extent of support for his team throughout the 2-1 win. As soon as the match kicked off, countless blue and white flags suddenly appeared among the spectators at the 'Greek' eastern end of the stadium. As well as the crowd, another thing that pleased the coach was his team's performance in the Etihad match. The win was just the national team's second in six games since he took charge in late October 2015 with the brief to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia. At his post-match press conference in Melbourne, Skibbe said he was pleased with what he saw of the squad over the two matches against the Socceroos, praising in particular the team's spirit and ability to fight for one another. His comments suggest that qualification for the World Cup won't be easy and that the team will need to show great resolve and strength of character, a rocksolid defence and an effective counter-attacking game. "From fighting in the first match until the last second, and also now the second match, we stood as a team together on the pitch. This is one of the things we have to do, even for the qualification matches for the World Cup, to show that we're defending altogether, that we're able to create some chances in offensive, if we are playing as fast as possible in forward positions. So I think for us it was a good match with a good result and in a few months I think we will have a good team for the World Cup qualifiers. "We had a lot of bad matches in the last two years and we have to create something new, and everyone in the team is willing to show this − that we have a new mentality in our team and that we are looking forward and that we will show in Europe that we are better than we have been in the last two years. Everybody is going to do their best. "Together with the players who are missing on this tour [such as Mitroglou and Fortounis], we will have a team at the beginning of September when we start the qualifiers which is able to win and hopefully go through to the World Cup." Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou (L) and Greek national team coach Michael Skibbe in Sydney before the first leg of the two-match Dodoni series. PHOTO: AFP. Back in Melbourne come September, the many Greek Australian fans will be cheering for both the Socceroos and the Ethniki as they embark on their respective qualifying campaigns. They couldn't agree more with coach Skibbe's sentiments when he said after Tuesday's match: "I hope we meet again in Russia."
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