The shocking reality of soccer violence

Some may have been shocked by the statement made by AEK soccer club chief Demis Nikolaidis after the vicious beating of an AEK fan by a group of rival Panathinaikos supporters outside the Olympic Stadium in Maroussi on Sunday. After all, the AEK boss did declare, «Maybe it’s best such things happen so that someone will actually be inspired to react» just a short while after television channels broadcast the images of the unfortunate AEK fan being kicked and beaten with iron bars and other heavy objects. The shock of the images had not even worn off when the AEK chief decided to address the TV cameras himself. But however harsh and unfeeling Nikolaidis’s comments may have sounded, he is – unfortunately – completely right. In this country of irresponsibility and passing the buck, in a society whose day-to-day operations makes it virtually impossible to attribute blame to the authority figures who merit it, in an environment which tolerates such criminal behavior, experience shows that if we do not hit rock bottom, if we do not mourn victims, then our authorities are unlikely to be moved enough to ensure that remedial action is taken. One would have expected an announcement from a senior police official or from the Public Order Ministry following Sunday’s shocking violence. But evidently the fact that these incidents coincided with a long weekend made the task of finding a competent, and sensitive, state spokesperson even more challenging than usual. Equally worrying is the fact that the violence continued for a good 15 minutes in a very public spot and just a short distance from riot police.