When colors incite mindless violence

I had begun writing my column on Thursday afternoon, when suddenly, next to Kathimerini’s Thessaloniki offices on Aghias Sophias Street, right on the seafront, I heard a commotion. There was a crowd of people gathered at the entrance of the cafe owned by NBA star and former PAOK player Predrag Stojakovic and two men, around 40 years old, lay at their feet, on the pavement, covered in blood. They were, as we later learned, fans of the Red Star Belgrade soccer team, who had traveled down to Thessaloniki to watch their team play Aris after enjoying a beautiful afternoon on the Thermaikos Gulf at their compatriot’s cafe. It was broad daylight in one of the busiest parts of the city. Right in front of the patrons at the cafe and passers-by, a group of masked men dressed in black attacked two completely unsuspecting men accompanied by their wives with knives and broken bottles. They attacked them until they drew blood. They did not say anything or warn them before the attack. They struck and then left, unhindered, without anyone chasing them or trying to stop them. And who would have risked taking on nearly a dozen armed maniacs? This all happened in a busy part of town to boot: What’s all the recent fuss about Zoniana?! I had little doubt about the origin of the assailants, though no one was caught and no real evidence was left at the scene of the crime. «What team were the victims?» «Red Star.» «Who were they playing?» «Aris.» A posse of soccer and basketball fans soon gathered on the blood-soaked sidewalk, «solving» the case in an instant, leaving the rest of us ignoramuses in the dark. The assailants, according to those in the know, were hooligans that supported another Thessaloniki club which had teamed up with hooligans from a Belgrade club, on account of the black jerseys worn by both teams and their mutual hatred for another two teams, one also from Belgrade and another from Athens, who wear red. So, red and black draw their knives at the drop of a hat. Last year, when the Greek «blacks» played in Belgrade against that city’s «reds,» the visiting fans were under almost-asphyxiating police protection for fear of attacks by Serb hooligan «reds.» And this is not because they were playing against each other, but because the Serb «blacks» had sided with their Greek counterparts. So, as soon as it got around in Thessaloniki that Belgrade’s «red» team would be accompanied by fans, a number of «black» hooligans, according to the well-informed pundits, decided to seek vengeance. And this they did, by stabbing two men, whom they most probably did not know at all, simply because they were sporting red scarves. What else can we expect to see?