A lesson for all

Sports fans are keen to attribute the hard-won victories of their opponents to luck. «Luck is what you make it,» critics will reply. The strong performance of Greece’s national soccer squad in the Euro 2004 championships in Portugal under the guidance of German coach Otto Rehhagel certainly offers solid proof of the latter adage. Greece’s success is not the work of two or three soccer stars who carry an otherwise mediocre squad on their shoulders, but the product of a hardworking group who are skilled but certainly do not rank among Europe’s top-notch players. Greece’s national team has proved to be greater than the sum of its constituent parts – a team that displays many of the same qualities that are absent from the clubs competing in our national league. The creation of this national team, the building of its foundations which enabled individual players to be transformed into a determined, structured, disciplined and consistent squad, are the work of Rehhagel, a German who imposed his authority on the players. But at the same time he trusted, encouraged and believed in them. His part in this success is acknowledged by the Greek fans who sing his virtues in the stands. The Greek soccer federation made the right decision by giving him enough time to prove himself. And so he did, in fact less than three years after he took over. Rehhagel would not have succeeded were it not for his serious and willing players, a group of young people who wanted to believe and to be believed in. Some of them had already tested their skills in the toughest European championships, seeking a place in clubs filled with stars, in competitions where mere participation is success and distinction a personal triumph. Apart from the athletic dimension is the economic one. In this respect, these men worked hard and got a taste of the big foreign markets before importing their experiences back home – under the guidance of a helmsman who was willing to implement these in Greece. The striking performance of the Greek squad which has given us such a thrill is a story of passion and excitement – a story of the Greeks who fight the battle and the German who guides them with his adrenaline at record levels. Passion can be said to reside in every creation. Our national team shows that passion also needs structure and discipline in order to find creative expression. Similarly in all areas where we tend to invoke our trademark Mediterranean temperament as an alibi for the lack of organization, we must see that the two are not opposites but can in fact be put together into producing something greater. Rehhagel and his boys definitely have something to teach us.