Politics by other means
Whoever believes that tonight?s Euro quarterfinal between Greece and Germany is only a game is mistaken. It is politics — maybe even war — by other means. The players and managers have to ignore its symbolic importance, but for the rest of the world this game will show up the strengths and weaknesses, the hopes, the self-sacrifice, the talent, the cunning and the discipline of each side. It won?t be just two teams on the playing field, but two nations whom circumstances have brought to a strange, contentious alliance which could, to a great extent, affect the course of Europe.
The Greeks are the poor, the bankrupt, the strugglers. Their lives have been overturned, they are trying to salvage some pride while having to live off loans and accede to their creditors? demands. Germany is Europe?s dominant power, the one that contributes the most funds but also makes the strictest demands in exchange for helping Greece, while a section of its press cannot stop ridiculing the Greeks. The Greek soccer league reflects the general collapse of Greece, whereas German teams are blooming; Greek players? ?value? is low on soccer?s stock exchange, while many Germans star in Europe?s top teams.
For many, a Greek victory will symbolize the victory of the inspired underdog against the wealthy, the powerful, the arrogant. It will be divine justice and comfort for the weak. For the Germans, defeat will be a misfortune, the product of carelessness. It will confirm their feeling that they do all the work while others get the money (and the glory). If they win, the Germans will say that this is just reward for their method, their strategy, their talent and their sacrifices. For many others, though, the Germans will be seen as too powerful, as a force that has to be contained once again.
In times of crisis, symbols take on greater force. If we are honest, though, we will see that the teams themselves undermine the prejudices of their fans, who believe that they are superior because they and their team are German or because they are Greek: The German team includes many children of immigrants, whereas many Greek players grew up abroad or ply their living outside Greece (with several of them in Germany). If these teams have achieved anything, it is through hard personal work and team effort. Nothing came easily. Instead of reinforcing prejudices, then, let us hope that today?s match will overturn some. Because tomorrow the game goes on.