Soccer violence

The riots at the Nea Smyrni stadium that led to the postponement of Sunday’s match between Panionios and Olympiakos Piraeus, and the apparent reluctance by political authorities to take radical action against those responsible for soccer violence inevitably raise a number of serious questions. State inaction and the apathy of the responsible ministers demonstrate a lack of political will to put an end to soccer trouble and crack down on the vested interests that are behind the gangs of hooligans. The public was let down by the softness of the official response to Sunday’s melee, which underscored that the government fails to grasp the political dimension of the issue. Soccer is a sport that has immense influence and multi-sided effects on society. It is an open secret that various interests have often used soccer to further their (mostly hidden) political objectives. The government cannot possibly ignore that soccer-related developments do not take place in a political vacuum. It has been common knowledge for decades that political and business entanglement has spread its tentacles in the world of soccer. If the conservative government wants to live up to its pre-election pledges about rooting corruption out of public life, it must also do so in the domain of soccer. People are tired of the flamboyant announcements about pending measures that never really come into force. The persistent inertia sucks the meaning out of the recurrent meetings, exposing the participants regardless of how sincere their motives might be. We should shed any pretensions that Greece’s triumph at the 2004 European Championship in Portugal and the ensuing success in hosting the Summer Olympic Games went as far as to transform the mentality of soccer big shots. Conservative officials must stop mimicking their Socialist predecessors, whose actions were always aimed at sweeping problems under the carpet. Sunday’s disgraceful episodes should spur the government into abandoning its passive attitude in the face of vested interests. Problem-solving often presupposes ruptures. Advancing the common good mandates that the government embark on a collision course with the organized interests that lurk behind many domestic issues.