Notables honor national basketball team

The players of the Greek national basketball team gave Greece a thrill last week when they took second place in the World Basketball Championship. Greek President Karolos Papoulias honored them for their victory against the US, for sending a message that nothing is impossible when we work together and have faith. «With their victory, they encouraged Greeks at somewhat difficult moments. And I am lucky to have received you last year as European champions and this year as world runners-up in the World Championship, as well as in that the European championship in Spain next year in September will take place during my term of office,» he said with a paternal smile, holding to his heart the basketball and the national team jersey which the national team’s coach, Panayiotis Yiannakis, presented to him. Yiannakis, who safeguards the team’s morale and engenders their victories, told Helbi, as he gave her his autograph: «I’ve been wearing the national jersey as a player and coach for 31 years.» Responding to the president’s warm congratulations, Yiannakis said: «You have a good collection of basketballs. You have two already and we plan to give you a third at the European Championship next year.» The national team then went to Maximos Mansion where Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was expecting them with his wife Natasa and Greek Communist Party General Secretary Aleka Papariga, who accepted the premier’s invitation to «greet our fine basketball players all together, across political parties.» PASOK leader George Papandreou and Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Alekos Alavanos sent representatives. The premier received a basketball and a jersey from Yiannakis, and when the latter admired his blue tie, took it off at once and offered it to him. At Moni Petraki, Christodoulos, archbishop of Athens and all Greece, welcomed the team. He blessed them and prayed for them to return «as victors.» He too received a basketball with the team’s signatures. What pleased the team most? «That when we beat the USA, the Greeks went out into the streets to celebrate,» said their captain, Michalis Kakiouzis, who now plays with Barcelona.