OPINION

Going too far

The incidents that took place in a number of cities on Saturday night after the defeat of the Greek soccer team by its Albanian counterpart, were both pathetic and inexcusable. The numerous assaults on Albanians who dared celebrate their national team’s victory and the horrible murder of a hapless Albanian man on Zakynthos by a young Greek-American – only because he was celebrating – are a stain on civilization in this country. Hardly had the ink dried on the praise showered by articles in the foreign press on the hospitality shown to thousands of athletes, escorts and journalists who came to Greece for the Olympic Games, when a few thousand hotheads went on to make a demonstration of the country’s endemic demons. These are the people who do not consider the sporting spirit to be a festive occasion uniting people and nations in comradeship, but a means to fan racist hatreds, hostility and divisions – even to eliminate the other. The worst thing is that this bigoted attitude is fomented not only by the extremist, marginal elements of a lower social class but by responsible politicians who have been elected by the people and express the will of the majority of citizens. Attempts by Greek and Albanian politicians to exploit, with racist statements made for their benefit, the climate of hooliganism played a decisive role in the appalling turn taken by events. Greek political parties, which in their entirety unreservedly condemned these disgusting incidents, have a duty to remove these ideological purveyors of hatred from the realm of sports. Greek television channels, which, for the sake of sensationalism and viewing figures, played a major role in inflaming passions and fomenting trouble with overexposure of the nationalist fever in Tirana before the match, should reconsider their incendiary stance. Tomorrow, by sheer mischance, the national team is playing Turkey. Are those who took part in Saturday’s clashes aware of what might happen if this kind of climate is prolonged? Soccer games last one-and-a-half hours; healing the wounds that can be opened in relations between two countries might take years. We lived through a wonderful summer of sporting uplift that raised Greece’s prestige to the heights of Olympus. We should not, by ourselves, then hurl it down to Tartarus, once more succumbing to our self-destructive bent for going too far.