The soccer mirror

What makes a nation? Well, soccer is certainly one of Greece’s most reliable mirrors, for it exposes what we are trying to hide or disguise. The flower of evil blossoms on the soccer pitch. Every new season begins with unctions, vows and pompous promises for good, clean football. It’s like a freshly elected prime minister presenting his new (or newly reshuffled) government. One round of matches, however, is all it takes to make the league the subject of investigative journalists, as it is they who have to report on the cases of bribery, violence against referees, enemy city invasions by club supporters, and acts of vandalism on shops just for fun. But let’s not complain too much. In Greece, there have been more government pledges to clean up the country’s soccer scene than campaigns to shape up the health, justice and education sectors. To no avail though. The knife of transparency is too dull to even cut a football. In fact the knife lies in reluctant, or perhaps self-serving, hands. You cannot expect someone to chop off his own hand. Greece’s soccer is beset by those same wounds that disfigure the body of the Greek state and society. The big shots’ constant disregard for the law under the state’s nose, the squandering of state money (subsidies to construct soccer grounds that were never completed, funds to organize glamorous events that never took place), extensive money laundering, patron-client relations funded with money from OPAP state lotteries, violence bordering on a small-scale civil war with dozens of fronts, along with the aggressiveness and vulgarity of club-aligned media are only some of these wounds and sins. PASOK’s newly reshuffled government has given us an idea of its well-thought-out strategy. In the first five days, the General Secretariat for Sports was part of the Health Ministry. (Perhaps they needed the doctors.) After those five days, however, the department came under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and the keys have returned to Health Minister Andreas Loverdos. It’s too early to know what will happen in October.

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