Greece has been going through some hard economic times these past few years and the newly elected leftist government SYRIZA found itself in a very difficult position scuffling with creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to reach an agreement and get Greece out of the economic chaos.
Unfortunately a solution hasn’t been found and the deadline is fast approaching making the so called GREXIT (Greece out of the EU) a very strong possibility. As of today no one really knows what the outcome will be and we can only hope that an agreement will soon be reached.
For the time being however I don’t want to concentrate on that GREXIT but on the other GREXIT, the one that knocked us out of the European Cup which will take place in 2016 in France between the soccer powers of Europe.
Germany and co. kicking us out of the EU is something I do understand, but being knocked out of the European Cup finals this past weekend by a country with a population of 50,000 named the Faroe Islands, I do not.
It wasn’t that long ago (2004) that we were crowned European champions by defeating powerhouse Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and Luís Figo in the final in Lisbon sending Greeks worldwide in a frenzy and making us proud once again. We Greeks of the diaspora who not long ago were shortening our last names and being called “Gus” instead of “Kosta” in order to assimilate, started putting “Hellas” bumper stickers on our cars and young Greek men were getting tattoos with the Greek flag on their biceps, telling the world that we had risen again as a people and a nation.
What happened? It just seemed like yesterday when Charisteas and Karagounis were proudly lifting the European cup in Athens with millions of Greeks cheering them on. How could a country no bigger than the city of Kozani Greece and amateur players defeat us not once but twice and send us packing one may ask?
In part, the squad of 2004 was special, very special with players like Karagounis in his prime, Seitaridis (one of the best right backs in Europe) captain Zagorakis and a defenseman named Dellas who would command the defense with such poise and shut down the best opposing strikers. There was workhorse Basinas and striker Charisteas, the midfield maestro Tsartas and Gianakopoulos. Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together was a German coach who became a national hero, Otto Rehhagel.
2004 was indeed a historic moment which most likely we will never witness again at least in our lifetime. Losing to a country ranked 103rd in the world and becoming a joke worldwide however is a whole other story.
Greek soccer like the rest of the country has been in a state of chaos for some time now with investigations of match fixings and money laundering by the biggest clubs leaving the Greek league with inferior Greek players and foreigners in their mid 30’s whose best days are behind them but even that doesn’t fully justify what happened.
It just seems like we need to start over as a country, sports included and that will take planning, education and realizing that we can’t constantly use our rich ancient history as a crutch. We need to participate in the modern world with hard work and productivity to get us out of the mess we’re in but unfortunately there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel and not much to be proud of as a Greek today.