Crime novel probes soccer underworld

The world of Greek soccer is often too sleazy to describe fully, by naming names and revealing what is really going on. Sports writers know that. Some of them have been violently attacked recently for even hinting. One way to explain the events safely is in the form of a parable or, as veteran sportswriter Themis Kesisoglou does, a crime novel. He does so intentionally in «To Allothi» («The Alibi,» in Greek, Dioptra Publishers). «This book was born of a need… the need to describe all that has bothered me through all these years, in places I have loved and grown up with,» he writes in the preface. The portrayal of Greek soccer is unrelentingly bleak. The club owner – who is also a media mogul – is a gangster surrounded by no less shady characters. A junkie is a prominent hooligan discussing tactics with the boss’s henchmen. Cops sell dope. Matches are, naturally, fixed. This is not an implausible story, although some twists and turns do not serve to push the narrative forward but to add unnecessary melodrama. Style-wise, the narrative reads too much like a TV reporter’s script of a «human interest» story. One senses that this is a script ready-made for a future TV series, with all the tried cliches present, including the chief villain’s eventual demise. Not to be too revealing, but the ending is based on a true event, a fan’s death in a soccer stadium.