Crossing boundaries

The appointment of Nikos Constantopoulos as the new president of Panathinaikos soccer club came as a big surprise. An ex-leader of left-wing Synaspismos, a former deputy, renowned criminologist, member of the resistance movement during the 1967-74 military dictatorship and an emblematic figure of the socialist left in the post-junta period, Constantopoulos is one of the last people you would expect to see at the helm of a Greek soccer club. Perhaps that’s because we have mostly come to identify soccer presidents with thugs and gangsters. Or it could be because we have the impression that the country’s professional soccer industry is like whitewash, a public shield for those who have huge fortunes but who enjoy little recognition among fans, with club officialdom providing added value. Maybe we see soccer as a battlefield for different interest groups, with «investors» struggling to dominate troublesome firms. Are they driven by profit? Clearly not. So what was it that resulted in Constantopoulos, once rumored to be a candidate for the Greek presidency, ending up as president of Panathinaikos? What was it that urged him to abandon the trial of Epaminondas Korkoneas (where he acted as a lawyer for the family of dead teenager Alexis Grigoropoulos), overcome his own personal history and announce that he has been a huge Panathinaikos fan all along? Psychological explanations may provide fuel for gossip but do little to explain the more general phenomenon: A politician’s crossover into the arena of mass spectacle – along with a number of other developments – underscores major changes in society, changes in behavior, morals, stereotypes and representations. The crisis that has shaken Greece and Europe to their foundations is not just an economic crisis; it is mainly a political and a moral crisis. Constantopoulos is acting like Silvio Berlusconi in reverse. His move underscores that macropolitics is unfolding outside the contours of our representative democracy and according to rules that conform to no conventional or legitimizing framework – except for money and brute force. The personal is under pressure from the high political stakes. We should be in for more such transformations. So much so, that they won’t surprises us anymore.

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