Chester, PA – A sea of blue and white shirts surrounded the outside of PPL Park in Chester, PA late Tuesday evening as supporters of the Greek National Soccer team waited for the stadium gates to open for the International Friendly between Greece and Nigeria. Fans in the area wanted to get a glimpse of their national squad only a week and a half before they travel to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Greece is ranked 10th overall in the 2014 FIFA World Rankings while Nigeria comes in ranked 44th but by the way both teams played tonight, you couldn’t tell that there was that massive a gap between the two teams rankings. Some may argue that both teams are saving their energy for the World Cup, but whether they were saving their energy or not, both teams played great soccer from start to finish.
It was a beautiful night for some soccer as the 10,131 in attendance saw the game end in a scoreless draw, and although the game lacked in goals it did not lack in excitement. As Greece took the opening kick-off, the fans let out a roar that could be heard in the streets of Chester, miles from the stadium. Whether fans had the flag of their beloved country waving above their head, or their respective team’s colors on, this event had the atmosphere of the World Cup.
The Greek fans noticeably got louder and louder as their team got deeper into Nigerian territory, and every shot on goal came with oohs and aahs. Both teams had their fair share of opportunities to score, but neither team could capitalize. The teams only managed to get the ball on net four times each and the most notable chance came in the 83rd minute when forward Giorgos Samaras was left open thanks to an unbelievable back heel pass by teammate Kostas Mitroglou.
Samaras put a shot on net that shot off the Nigerian goalkeeper’s hands into the air and headed back on goal by Dimitris Salpingidis, but it wasn’t enough to get to the net. Both teams showed great sportsmanship in this Friendly, from helping an opposing player up after a hard foul or slapping hands after an accidental push or bump. Don’t expect either team to be too friendly come Brazil.
Soccer is more than a sport in the Greek community, it is a culture. In the parking lot before the game, everybody seemed to know everybody, and it was like that of a huge family reunion. Thousands of Greek-Americans rooting for one team, supporting one country, and they made the players feel right at home with all the moral support they brought into the stadium with them.
When the Greek National Anthem was performed there wasn’t a single Greek supporter in PPL Park that wasn’t singing it word for word. The Greek community loves their national team, and on June 12th, they will be watching as their team takes on Group C in their quest for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Video: Vasilis Keisoglou