OPINION

Soccer player’s dark odyssey

He was probably from a poor background, a child from Latin America born kicking a soccer ball around, dreaming of a career with a European team and the glory – not to mention the money – that would take him and his family out of their miserable existence. Hordes of others like him have been brought over from Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Peru to join our soccer teams. He came from Brazil to sign a contract with a soccer club in Thessaloniki. Halfway through the contract, his employers decided that he was no longer wanted and tried to get rid of him; however, there was a contract which would force them to pay out a few thousand euros. It was then that the long hand of the law was brought to bear, not to protect the employee, of course, but the employer, who in trying to get rid of an annoying staff member was demanding his rights. What happened was that although talks had stalled, the police suddenly decided to examine the soccer player’s papers and found that his visa had just expired. He was carted off to the lockup for a taste of Greek hospitality for two days and nights and then deported. His manager appealed to UEFA, making charges that, if true, are an embarrassment to Greece. He claimed the club owners knew the visa was due to expire but had reassured the player that all would be well. When he did not agree to dissolve the contract on their terms, that is, to leave without compensation, he was handed over to the police. Of course, this is not an isolated case. Thousands like him are playing on teams in all divisions in Greece under conditions that are far from legal. We applaud or jeer them every Sunday, without knowing or caring about the conditions under which they are living in order to entertain us. It is common knowledge that they are often not paid, unable to pay their rent, that they are bound by private agreements to stop them from claiming the rights accorded them in their contracts. If necessary, their names are passed on to the authorities for omissions or infringements of their entry and residence permits, which, of course, their employers had acquired for them with amazing ease. It is the same as what used to happen with the illegal immigrants from Albania before they were given legal status. They would be given jobs by homeowners who then refused to pay them and informed on them to police for deportation. That is the dark side of what is otherwise the «heavenly» world of our soccer teams.