Foul comments

A soccer match lasts for about 90 minutes. However, the war surrounding those 90 minutes usually lasts many days. Neither the social security issue nor the debate over the presidential nomination and the ensuing partisan strife incite nearly as much passion as a big football clash, where a controversial offside or foul decision – things, in other words, that have precious little impact on what we think of as our real life – are treated as questions of fundamental importance. Save some classy play by Rivaldo, there was little if anything to savor in the Saturday clash between archrivals Olympiakos and Panathinaikos. The game deserves to fade into oblivion; but this is highly unlikely, thanks to the vulgar statements and vitriolic headlines on both sides. So we could hear politicians (like PASOK MP Andreas Loverdos) fanatically declaring their team preference in a way that may suit a team club leader but scarcely a self-styled reformist politician. However, ballot anxiety is common both to old-style party members and reformists. Politicians know that statements along the lines of «a football match is a festive event» will win them little public support. But if they openly take sides, there is a hope that some fellow supporter will remember them when casting his vote. We could also see journalists (who so often take pride in their objectivity) acting as spokesmen for Olympiakos or Panathinaikos. Meanwhile, government officials responsible for sports kept mum on the firecrackers and iron projectiles that were thrown at players in the Karaiskaki and Toumba stadiums. Did they keep silent because they prefer actions to words? We shouldn’t delude ourselves. Politicians know that taking issue with the popular teams and their owners can be costly. Hence they are merely passing the time by kicking the ball – along with their responsibility – out of play.