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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 18 May 2019
28 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 18 MAY 2019 SPORT The Greek Cup Final between PAOK and AEK was played at a devoid of fans Olympic Stadium. Was it really such a bad choice or rather was it a decision long overdue? DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 18 MAY 2019 SPORT The Greek Cup Final between PAOK and AEK wa 8 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 18 MAY 2019 SPORT The Greek Cup Final between PAOK and AEK was played at a devoid of fans Olympic Stadium. Was it really such a bad choice or rather was it a decision long overdue? DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM A A step in the right direction... ALEX ANYFANTIS News articles on the recent Greek Cup Final have spread around the world like wildfire. Yet none of them have anything to do with the actual game that was played or the fact that PAOK managed to reach its first double in the team's over-90-year history. No. These articles are all focused on the stands, devoid of crowds. Empty. A result of the police's failure to contain the severe episodes of the two previous finals (for those who do not remember, AEK and PAOK have been meeting in the Cup Final in Greece for the last three years), leading to many people getting either injured or arrested. It made perfect sense that the authorities would finally say, "Enough is enough!" Who can blame them for slamming the door on these mindless supporters? Almost on weekly basis they're forced to contend with the tens-of-thousands of rampaging hooligans that treat public property and stadiums in such a manner, abusing everyone and everything in their path when things don't go their way. Such an extreme measure was indeed necessary, both for the safety of everyone involved and to serve as a form of punishment towards fans who need to be sent the message that their behaviour would not be tolerated. But the possibility of a change in behaviour is unlikely in the long-term. Authorities have already showed that they are incapable of stopping the denizens involved in such destructive behaviour. Clubs, too, have done their best to distance themselves from such behaviour, while claiming also that their position is that football "needs to be played in front of fans". Emptying the stadiums merely enforces the idea that not a single football organisation in Greece is willing to clean up their act and work towards a real solution that would permanently remove dangerous factions from within the game. Instead, the situation is ongoing, and the environment of growing hate is maintained. A deeper look at the problem is necessary for lasting impact. Further proof of the mainte- nance of the unhealthy rivalry was demonstrated a few weeks ago at an Olympiacos basketball game where the (so-called) fans thought it was a good idea to celebrate the anniversary of the murder of a Panathinaikos fan by lifting a banner focused on this. It had been exactly one year since the young man had lost his life in a supporter conflict. Not a single official of the club thought to tell them to bring down the repulsive flag, much less ban them from the stadium. This incident might have to do with a different sport, but it serves as proof of the whole mentality of 'not messing with the fans' that goes on in Greece and about which we have spoken of countless times in the past. The police made a step towards the right direction, however the clubs need to make up their minds and follow suit in order for football and all athletic grounds in Greece to become safer and more family-friendly. There are hundreds of thousands of people who still want to attend their favourite team's game and wish to support them with all their heart, but due to these areas becoming a battleground for a few uneducated teenagers (mostly), they are forced to turn their back on the sport entirely. In order for these people to come back and for Greek football (and sport in general) to provide a healthier image to the outside world, everyone within the Greek football community will need to unite and make up their minds to shut out all these fanatics from their grounds. For anybody that demonstrates a religious following towards a football club (which, let's not forget, is actually a company owned by investors looking to make a profit), to the point of them taking personal offence when someone might say something negative about it, it must mean they have their own personal issues or that they use the sport to fill in some other gap in their lives. And these are the sort of unstable people that football can absolutely do without. So even if it takes a couple of years of empty stadiums or lack of participation in European competitions, at the end of the day, if it helps bring back a sense of normality within all athletic fields in Greece, then it is definitely worth it. It is unacceptable for a man to be afraid to walk out of his house, simply because he officiated a football game between two teams and he may have been involved in a controversial decision. It is unacceptable for women to be verbally and physically attacked in a volleyball or water polo game, simply because they play for one of the two great rivals of Athens. It is unacceptable to celebrate murder. How much do things need to escalate and how much more blood needs to be shed for the people in charge of sports in Greece to comprehend these simple facts? The police took a first step to putting an end to destructive behaviour at Sunday's finals. But it would be in vain unless everyone else also follows the example and works together to see Greek football break the shackles of violence and become more known for the accomplishments of athletes such as Papastathopoulos, Manolas and Mitroglou.
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