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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 20 August 2016
28 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 20 AUGUST 2016 SPORT Nothing super about this Superleague With the kick-off for the new season being postponed, one has to wonder - is anyone in Greek football going to get a grip? DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM ISSN 1321-1676 9 771321 167062 PHOTO: AAP VIA AP/YORGOS KARAHALIS. GERARD PAPASIMAKOPOULOS Oh look, another footballing season has kicked off in Europe. Fans will flock to the stadiums, tune in to televised matches, cheer for every goal, "ooooh" loudly at missed chances, angrily shout at the ref if he doesn't hand out yellow cards when he should, talk tactics at length and generally footbalise their lives for the next handful of months. But, wait. Hang on a minute. The Greeks seem to be slightly behind in their footbalising of their football. Sure, Panathinakos, Olympiakos, AEK, PAOK and Pas Giannina have all dipped their toes in the European footballing waters, but what about the Greek league? Funny you should ask actually, because it's not starting. No, it's not because of the intense August heat and I'm pretty sure it's not about footballs that need pumping up or something of that sort. It's rather more simple than that: the Superleague, the premier football division of Greece, is about as super as an old sock; that is to say, not super at all. Plagued by infighting, corruption scandals and gen- eral disarray, the Superleague has once again put the hand-brake on and there is little to indicate when exactly it's going to start. Deputy Minister of Sport Stavros Kontonis made the announcement on Thursday, essentially informing the public and all involved that the Superleague would not in fact be kicking off on the weekend, instead being postponed until at least 5 September. Yes, that's right. At least. His reasoning was that the continuous squabbling between the warring factions within the Superleague structure could spill over onto the pitch and stands come kick-off time, which, while admittedly rather vague is at least partially sound. The Greek Football Association wasted no time in launching a scathing attack on the deputy minister, more or less accusing him of bullying Greek football and playing the game of those that wish to take over from the current regime. So just what is going on? Giorgos Girtzikis, current head of the Greek Football Association and seemingly playing out his last days in that post is seen by many as the rotten core of this rather bland footballing apple. With his involvement in a health care scandal finally catching him up with him and with his starring role in the demolition of the national football team structure well established, there is little to like about Girtzikis. This, after all, is a man who oversaw the national side go from World Cup shine to we've-lost-to-theFaroe-Islands-twice dullness, a man fiercely adamant that everyone has it in for him, a man who sees himself as "one of the good guys". He was also regarded until quite recently as an individual keen to stay close to the Olympiakos camp, a team that has ruled mercilessly over the Greek premier division, hoovering up titles like they were going out of fashion. It says a lot that as he enters his final days of footballing rule, the team from Piraeus has distanced itself from Girtzikis, who is now facing the combined forces of AEK Athens, Panathinaikos and PAOK, who want him out as soon as possible, alone, even though he is adamantly refusing to admit that the game is up. The game, by the way, stinks. Corruption allegations, bribery scan- dals, rotten referees with court dates of their own to manage, you name it. The Superleague has it all. But, many ask, will the situation greatly improve when Girtzikis steps down? Sadly, the answer is no, because the war rages on. Vaggelis Marinakis, the man who owns Olympiakos – and who is now effectively running English side Nottingham Forest as well – is openly at war with fellow entrepreneurs Giannis Alafouzos, Ivan Savvidis and Dimitris Melissanidis, who sit at the helm of Panathinaikos, PAOK and AEK respectively. The prize for the winner will of course be control of the premier division, but while they're busy fighting among themselves, the product itself is falling apart. Dwindling crowds and rising levels of hooligan violence threaten to shatter what little remains of Greek football and even though all sides frequently profess their willingness to do anything "for the good of the game", it's blatantly obvious that is not the case. The funny thing is that after so many years of petty squabbling and non-stop bickering between the major players in Greek football, it seems difficult to imagine a time when they wouldn't be part of the landscape. For Greek football to stand a chance of progressing and evolving, a very different type of mentality needs to be adopted and one that I fear will not come with constantly postponing league action, which seems to be the only weapon that the deputy minister for sport has in his highly-limited arsenal. Postponing the start of the Superleague for this season will achieve nothing. If and when the new season kicks off, the exact same players will still be sitting at the table, wanting the exact same things and going after them in the exact same way. Outside and in the stands, the same hooligan armies that have driven Greek football fans away from the stadiums will still be there as well. Dealing with this entire spectacular mess with "let's leave it for now" attitude screams of only one thing. Neither the government, nor anyone else involved in Greek football have a clue. The worrying thing is that they truly think they do.
13 August 2016
27 August 2016