In the land of thugs

Free pending an appeal against a 12-year sentence after being found guilty of forgery, AEK strongman Makis Psomiadis, otherwise known as «Big Mac,» paid an intimidating visit in the company of bodyguards to the team’s star striker Demis Nikolaidis to remind him of his precious contribution to public life. Psomiadis’s arm-twisting tactics – coupled with recent extortion-related allegations – revealed the hellhole which gapes beneath the surface of the local public realm. An incarnation of the would-be tough guy, Psomiadis, with his height, cigars and thugs is, perhaps, not unique or the worst of his kind. Still, he is the most blatant in terms of public comportment. Despite the suspended sentence, «Big Mac» is still a publisher, a businessman and the head of a soccer club – just as some of the publishers accused of blackmail have succeeded in being called upon to give their views on the issue as journalists or to voluntarily provide it as crusading reporters. The promotion of the public role of some underground figures is what distinguishes our society from more advanced ones. These too have their extortioners, underground figures and thugs. But it’s hard to imagine a man surrounded by bodyguards being in charge of Ajax FC. And if such a figure attempted to take over the post, he would prompt an outburst of rage and concern rather than comments portraying his illicit activity as picturesque. Greek soccer is tainted with big shots who parade in court. Television channels and popular publications are controlled by persons implicated in extortion rackets. Economic activity is state-dependent and mostly takes place behind the scenes, thereby creating fertile ground for graft and blackmail. Political malaise is deep enough to render extortioners convincing enough to claim that they maintain ties with terrorist groups. Reporters’ allegations based on rumors and gossip aim to tarnish individuals’ images in public. Television personas exchange accusations over corruption and kickbacks. All the above underscore the institutional shortcomings and, above all, the failings of the government and the judicial system. Even more, they betray the imperfections of our economic and social structures as well as the social confusion and passiveness that allow the rise and survival of people like Psomiadis in posts that should not be accessible to them in the first place. They have long shown who they are. But we’ve based our perceptions only on television.

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