Just believe in it

The crowd was huge, the passion great and joy unconfined. Most of all it was the joyful outburst of an entire nation. It wasn’t just Athens, Thessaloniki and the other big cities. In villages with as few as 50 or 100 residents, people went onto their balconies and hung out Greek flags, as if someone had given the signal for a great collective celebration. Only at moments of great national feeling has there been such an upsurge of unity and blunting of differences. It was football and victory, but it wasn’t just a football victory. We wanted popular heroes and the football win in Portugal gave them to us. We all saw how the crowd followed the route and surrounded the bus carrying the players. The crowd was all theirs. At the Kallimarmaro Stadium, the crowd with its enthusiasm, its own slogans and its inexhaustible imagination was humorous without bothering anybody or subverting official order and official dignity. And they were right. We need more sincerity and spontaneity. This was a victory in Europe, where forms of shared assembly, shared life and shared emotions among citizens may shape a common consciousness more effectively than the treaty for the European Constitution. In this Europe, in nearly all sectors and all realms of activity, our performance puts us in last place. And then, absolutely unexpectedly and unhoped for, these lads put us in first place. At least in football. We needed a clean, recognized victory to start believing in ourselves and our abilities. Europe is no flower garden; it is a sports field and football ground where we will compete, where what matters is the willpower to struggle with faith for victory, in whatever area of activity. Before the tournament, we weren’t the best at football, as at many other things. Of the 16 teams that qualified for the Euro 2004 championship in Portugal, ours was actually among the two or three weakest. But it was nonetheless determined to do its best under the circumstances, and had worked out a specific strategy to tackle all the superior teams it had to face. This last element we owe to the German coach Otto Rehhagel. The team didn’t allow its opponents to develop their advantages and it managed to benefit from their momentary weaknesses. It isn’t only about football. In all areas where our weaknesses are apparent there is a way – there has to be – to compete successfully. We just have to desire it and believe in it.