Deflated illusions

Our national delusions have been deflated by ever more painful events. Despite the painstaking efforts by politicians and the media to promote the charms of a Greek exceptionalism, in the end even spinmeisters yield to inexorable realities. Until recently politicians cultivated the illusion of a «powerful Greece» that was permeated by «a newfound national self-confidence.» And then reality crashed in: a huge fiscal deficit, heavy debt, faltering productivity, and a weak state apparatus that appears vulnerable to the temptation of entangled interests. The painful doping scandals involving Greece’s sprint champions (who had for years enjoyed political protection) debunked our untainted Olympic myth – traditionally a bottomless well of pride for all Greeks. Yet another potent myth was the one constructed round our national soccer team – a myth born during the Euro 2004 championship in Portugal. In the shadow of the proudly waving Greek flag and an atmosphere of heightened national emotion, it was quickly announced that following the great international success, the popular, yet perennially suffering, sport would soon be on the road to health, that winds of modernization would blow across Greek football grounds, and that the Greek championship would be held transparently, decently and in conditions of absolute safety. The fantasy came apart in some 30 minutes in Panionios’s stadium on Sunday. A number of warning signs preceded Sunday’s violence (most notably in Thessaloniki a few weeks ago) but were dismissed for fear of dispelling the sweet dream of soccer reform. It’s time we took a serious look at soccer. Violence – often sparked by local big shots – is damaging to Greek society, especially youngsters living in disadvantaged areas.