“The longest soccer game in the world” is how one foreign website described the rematch, 84 years in the offing, between Lailapas, a team based on the eastern Aegean island of Chios, and Turkey’s Karsiyaka.
The sporting event, which took place on Chios, drew the attention of international media, with reports appearing in Norway, Germany, Bosnia and Russia all the way to Argentina and Peru. It’s hardly surprising that a rematch between a Greek and a Turkish team would generate so much hype given the widespread perception that Greek-Turkish relations are inevitably thorny. However the scenes that unfolded on Chios on a recent Saturday seem to have challenged that perception and the game even made the front page of Turkish daily Hurriyet.
The port of Chios was dressed in its finest colors to welcome its Turkish guests early in the morning. As the residents of the island listened to the final speeches by their mayoral candidates ahead of local elections, 1,500 Turks arrived from the neighboring coast in order to settle a score by finishing a game that came to an abrupt halt due to heavy rainfall in 1930.
In the 67th
“But this time the game was not completed either,” the Lailapas soccer squad coach, Michalis Kottakis, told Kathimerini. “In the 67th minute, swept up by the festive atmosphere, reveling fans swarmed onto the pitch, took the ball and started dancing all together, Greeks and Turks.”
Thanks to this outburst of merriment, Lailapas and Karsikaya still have a loose end to tie up, though it is unlikely they will ever do so after the two teams signed a friendship pact and aim to keep playing friendly matches, ending them just a few minutes before the 90-minute mark.
“The score up until the game was interrupted stood at 5-5,” added Kottakis. “Symbolic, don’t you think?”
Many of the fans from Turkey were transported to Chios on a 450-seat catamaran that was rented for the occasion and made the trip in 18 minutes instead of the 45 that most ferries take to cover the short distance between Chios and the Turkish coast. In fact many of them made the most of the opportunity and spent an additional day on the island. After the game, the fans were treated to a concert of Greek and Turkish music and a tour of the island on the following day. Attending the event were Turkish Ambassador to Athens Kerim Uras, the chairman of the Izmir Chamber of Commerce and a delegation of Turkish journalists.
The story of the interrupted 1930 game was brought to light by writer Yiannis Makrydakis, a native of Chios. Kottakis stumbled upon it when he was 23 and living in London. He moved back to his native island and took on the task of coaching Lailapas while learning Turkish in the process.
“Together with a group of young Chiotes, we have founded the ‘87 Minutes Movement,’ with which we will continue to cultivate friendly relations between the two sides of the Aegean beyond soccer,” said Kottakis.