Soccer epidemic

When PAOK captain Thodoris Zagorakis shouted and gestured at the home fans, begging them to stop setting fire to the stands and throwing tiles, stones and cellphones, scenes of joy and elation must have rushed through his head. His mind must have flashed back to Greece’s magical summer of 2004. Back then, we were all naive enough to believe that it would last when the imminent end was already being echoed in the pompous, nationalist comments triggered by the victory. If the national team captain had shown up at the ceremony for PAOK’s 80th birthday, he would have heard the demagogic speeches of ministers, deputy ministers, mayors, prefects and senior PASOK officials and realized that no matter how many reform plans and super leagues are launched, the epidemic plaguing Greece’s soccer scene will never be cured. There is no one type of soccer epidemic, of course. There are many different viruses and the skin remains vulnerable. Yet the one with the most blatant symptoms is fanaticism. Those who suffer from it are in fact proud of their «unhealthy obsession» with their club. They are denounced as hotheads by the same people who used to guide them until they ceased to be useful. When you terrorize referees and opponents, you are called «heroic.» When you set a fire, hurl stones or stab someone, you are dubbed a hooligan. This brings us to a second type of epidemic: opportunistic bigshots who have many interests but the law is not among them. Finally, there is the politician epidemic, common among self-styled regional governors. Knowing that votes (just like money) have no smell, they attend the Sunday service hoping the faithful will reward them. They sit in the stands hoping that soccer fans will recognize and reward them. Did any of those speaking at the PAOK ceremony have anything to say about the latest soccer violence?

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