Hotbeds of violence

The country’s political and religious establishment all came out to speak about the incidents at the Thessaloniki parade. Again, the political and religious leaders of Greece’s second-largest city jumped in to criticize the show of stand-up comedian Jimmy Panousis. In both cases, things were pretty straightforward: The leaders said exactly what the flock or crowd wanted to hear, offering sound bites on tradition and the nation. But when it came to the violence by the PAOK fans who traveled to Larissa for the soccer match against the local team, the same leaders were extremely laconic. None of the Macedonian officials saw any reason to slam the «heroic fans» of Thessaloniki’s biggest club. Similarly, none of Larissa’s local leaders deemed it proper to condemn the acts of the hooligans – whether spontaneous or guided. Their silence is not without meaning. It speaks volumes about politicians’ dependence on the votes of the «heroic people» who, for that reason, need to be constantly flattered even if they go on to wreck stadiums and cities. Also, it speaks volumes about their dependence on bigwigs and club owners who are left unchecked to make laws and implement (without ministerial approval) the soccer regulations that best suit their interests. In fact, even Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos (who, no surprise, kept mum about the weekend violence) has suggested that the new soccer regulation is illegal. PAOK fans had declared their intentions days in advance, raising a banner that read «a flare for every jugular» – a sick reference to the death 10 years ago of Charalambos Blionas who was hit by a flare. Let a thousand government plans blossom, nothing will change in Greek soccer. With or without supporters in the stadiums, violence will rule. For it no longer needs any reason to break out.