Round goddess of violence

Those of us who were watching the volleyball cup semifinal matches last Saturday were silently wishing that Olympiakos and Panathinaikos would not get through to the final. Remembering the bloody history that began long before the murder of Michalis Filopoulos in Paiania, we knew what would happen. But our wishes were not fulfilled – as tends to happen with wishes – and so the two armies that had clashed the previous day in the streets of Patras showed once more how they interpret noble rivalry. Onlookers from abroad – Swedes, Serbs, Slovenes, Americans, Germans, Belorussians, coaches and players – must have been shocked at the lessons they learnt here. When they go home, they will no doubt have a great deal to say about the country that gave birth to the Olympic spirit. The barbarian fiesta was played out under a banner that read: «No to violence, yes to sports.» As both seats and flares were being launched en masse, that slogan appeared to have been written with a large dose of irony, something that is not in short supply in Greece’s sports industry. Wasn’t there irony in the statement once made by a president of one of the two teams, when he said: «These are our fans and we won’t change them.» What about the recent decision by the head of a rival club to stop handing out tickets (and other gifts) to the members of its fan club, but only after they had left their mark on half the country? It is a joke to listen to major club officials criticize «mindless» behavior when they have repeatedly been caught on camera behaving like hooligans themselves. We can only be thankful that these clubs don’t have handball, rugby or hockey teams. However, up until the summer, these two teams will be facing off about 20 times on the soccer field, on the basketball and volleyball courts and in water polo. Wishes don’t cost anything, but they don’t do any good either. Isn’t there any politician, businessman or publisher with connections to these clubs who wants to change things?