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EURO shockwaves hit Greece

Published: Sunday 4 July 2004, 11.54CET
Greece's success at UEFA EURO 2004™ could prompt a footballing revolution back at home, say officials from Panathinaikos FC and Olympiacos CFP.
by Adam Szreter
from Lisbon
Published: Sunday 4 July 2004, 11.54CET

EURO shockwaves hit Greece

Greece's success at UEFA EURO 2004™ could prompt a footballing revolution back at home, say officials from Panathinaikos FC and Olympiacos CFP.

Being a football fan in Greece has been something of a roller-coaster ride in recent seasons, but nothing like the current giddy heights of the national team's success have ever been reached before.

Shot in the arm
In a land where financial mismanagement and spectator misbehaviour threaten almost daily to undermine the progress made by clubs on the pitch, arriving at the final of the third biggest sporting event on the planet - just weeks before hosting the biggest one, the Olympics - can only give the Greeks, and Greek football in particular, a massive shot in the arm.

Turning a corner
AEK Athens FC, who provide five of the Greek squad including the captain Theodoros Zagorakis, are still deep in trouble, trying to fend off bankruptcy and relegation, but elsewhere there were already signs last season that a corner of sorts is being turned.

Chance for grassroots
With UEFA's Club Licensing scheme set to take effect from next season, clubs have been forced to start cutting their cloth according to their budget, and FC PAOK, who finished in a UEFA Champions League qualifying spot after selling some of their best players, have provided a good example of what can be achieved if grassroots are given a chance to come through.

'Morale boost'
As ever, expectations at club level will be highest at the country's biggest clubs, and Olympiacos CFP vice-president Petros Kokkalis told euro2004: "I think this performance will greatly boost the morale of Greek teams."

'Nothing is impossible'
He added: "They will understand now that nothing is impossible, so they have better chances than before. Also Greek players will now have a bigger value on the European market, and that's good for the Greek market as it will provide an additional motive for the players."

'Financial settlement'
Sofoklis Pilavios, head of international relations at Panathinaikos FC, sees immediate financial benefits for all clubs. "There was talk just before the [UEFA] European Championships that the new government will do away with all the debts of the clubs, and this could be the start of a new financial settlement," he said. "I think they will proceed with that immediately after the tournament.

'Talent to succeed'
"In Greece they have now understood that with good organisation and a little bit of discipline, we have the talent to succeed and it has also given the government a chance to see what football can give to the people," added Pilavios. "Of course, the success was unexpected for all the fans, but the team and the officials here in Portugal believed in themselves because they believed in the value of the players."

Possible revolution
Kokkalis, who described the semi-final win against the Czech Republic as "the biggest moment in my sporting career as a fan", went one step further, saying: "I think this could be a revolution for Greek football. It is the best chance for Greek football to move forward, away from antiquated practices and procedures."

New stadiums
With new or renovated stadiums springing up all over the country for the Olympics, including two in Athens, there is further cause for optimism at all levels of the game. And both Pilavios and Kokkalis believe that another legacy of the success in Portugal could be a reduction in spectator violence at matches in Greece.

'Celebrating together'
"I have seen fans from all the big clubs like Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and AEK, all together celebrating," said Pilavios. "If they can see that the national team is above all the clubs, and football as a sport is above that, we could benefit a lot."

'Having fun'
"I think this will have a very deep and important effect in terms of the mentality of the fans," said Kokkalis, "regarding how you watch a football game, and that football is all about having fun and being together."

Last updated: 04/07/04 12.12CET

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