Once upon a time, a bunch of Greek lads flew under the radar, took Europe by storm and won UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal. That summer was dubbed as "the summer of Greece". First came the European crown, then Athens hosted the Olympic Games. Everything seemed idyllic, as if the sun were shining permanently over this part of the Mediterranean.
Eight years later, to say that the situation has changed would be a huge understatement. Smack in the middle of a global financial crisis, Greece is in the news for all the wrong reasons. "It's so sad that everybody focuses on my country's financial troubles. The crisis is affecting other parts of Europe as well, not just us," says Sokratis Papastathopoulos. During Greece's preparations for UEFA EURO 2012, it seems that almost every player interview has ended with a question about the crisis. It's difficult to ignore.
So, if we were to approach these finals from the Greece players' point of view, what would we see? Furthermore, how does the crisis affect their time in Poland? Well, let me tell you that this is an opportunity to really enjoy their profession. To be among the best of the best, among their peers and play football away from any negative thoughts. Given the miracle of 2004, they are also allowed to dream, because anything is possible.
But, most of all, considering the circumstances, they are determined to put on a good show. Because they know that a good showing and positive results will give the folks back home something to smile about. Defender Avraam Papadopoulos put it in just six words: "We need it as a country." Striker Giorgos Samaras remembered the decisive qualifier against Croatia, back in October: "It was like a final and in the end we celebrated. It provided a short escape from a harsh reality. So, in Poland, that's what we want to do again: put a smile on their faces."
Such a scenario would prove once and for all, to borrow from Karl Marx, that football is indeed the opium of the masses.
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