The price of success

Believing as we may that the Greek national team is on the lips of all of Europe, our performance on the field still leaves a lot to be desired. Foreign journalists and sports commentators have spread the good word – in praise, however, of the Greek squad’s effectiveness and disciplined performance, not of its quality of play. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the limits of a success, for this is the only way to be able to accept defeat in proportion when it comes, when we fall from the heights to the depths and praise is replaced by lamentation. Of course we, intoxicated with our unexpected qualification – and always keen to give it a metaphysical dimension (on this we are no different from other nations) – refuse to see that if there is one team that deserves to be on everyone’s lips, that is the Czech one, not ours. In three matches, the Greek team can only be proud of a good first half, that is, the first half in the opening game against hosts Portugal. This has been acknowledged before everyone else by the Greek players who appear more modest than their admirers. Given our chronic setbacks, there is nothing stopping us from celebrating the qualification to the Euro 2004 quarterfinals – a routine achievement for other European countries that we tend to look down on, and not only in terms of soccer – as if we had won the cup itself. Moreover, nothing can deflate the pomposity and subdue the would-be epic excess in the endless TV programs or the rival banner headlines. All this may seem natural. But it would be neither natural nor painless to allow our joy to be poisoned by the chauvinistic and racist slogans such those that were to be heard during the public celebration in Omonia. Did we beat the Portuguese only to vent our anger (or better, our poison) on the Turks and the Albanians?

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