OPINION

Politics and soccer

Whenever one of the major soccer teams finds itself in a difficult position, either because of accumulated debts or because it is held accountable for fan violence, it can always count on valuable political support. Club owners, who are responsible for their teams’ blatant financial mismanagement, are relieved to find a helping hand in the shape of politicians who ensure their debts are written off. The most commonly used justification is that applying the law to the bankrupt team would be an open invitation to trouble. It is the same when a major club is found guilty, fully or partially, of violence caused by rampaging fans who are, in fact, systematically incited by the club’s managers. In such cases as well, some politicians will hurry to offer their moral support to those hapless victims of injustice. Politicians, of course, behave in such a manner in order to secure the votes of the wronged team’s fans or because they enjoy close personal ties with the clubs’ owners – or sometimes both. It thus becomes clear that soccer violence is largely an outgrowth of political protection. The political officials (those self-styled soccer enthusiasts) who are seen to be sympathizing with the troubles facing the most popular soccer teams – like those of the heavily indebted Thessaloniki clubs in the past and more recently of Olympiakos – are putting on a show that is in bad taste. But their behavior actually encourages the owners of big clubs to break the law or question its rule. At the same time, club owners offer protection for the violent acts by their organized supporters. It has become clear by now that these purportedly bold politicians have their own peculiar perception of politics and sports.