The distance between “please stop hitting me,” and “he was beating me all over my body, kicking and slapping me” is nothing but a breath – literally.
Alkis Kampanos is no longer breathing because the 19-year-old was brutally murdered by soccer hooligans in Thessaloniki, northern Greece. Meanwhile, the artistic gymnastics champion who was abused by her coach survived. It’s been some time since the #MeNow_MeToo initiative (launched by the European Anti-Violence Network and veteran Olympic champion Sofia Bekatorou) brought the incident to the fore.
The former’s cries fell on deaf ears. The latter found the courage to speak out after the wounds, the bodily ones at least, had healed. Since its launch less than two months ago, a total of 298 testimonies of sexual assault and abuse have been registered on the platform.
Police raided multiple soccer supporters’ clubs in Thessaloniki and Athens in the wake of the deadly attack and seized, among others, butterfly knives, helmets, flash-bang grenades, lead pipes, wooden bats and motorcycle helmets.
Violence is manifest at different levels of intensity. Or so the experts say. The absolute dividing line, however, is the one between life and death. The victims of fan violence in Greece make up a long list that is similar to the victims of femicide and other types of physical or psychological abuse. Reporting an exact count is besides the point because quantity is not what is at stake here.
Wrongdoers must be arrested and punished. Their punishment must be proportional to the crime committed. In the case of the 19-year-old, the police reacted in a swift and effective manner because they knew where to look. They already had their eye on specific hangouts, clubs and individuals because in the world of Greek soccer abhorrent incidents are a regular occurrence. Numerous reports have established the connection between criminal offenders and soccer fans. Also, most of the incidents have occurred in public.
But what about the “whispers”? All those after-the-event testimonies which we read or hear? The testimonies which only come to light after it’s too late, when the trauma on the soul and the body is too deep to overcome.
The safest way to amplify the cries over the whispers is to assert silence and forgetfulness; a reluctant state, a web of timid institutions, an insensitive public.