True grit under pressure

Thankfully, privately run television station Polis capitalized upon state-controlled ERT’s lack of interest in the national under-21 soccer team’s final hurdle to getting a place at next spring’s European Championship finals, by taking a last-minute initiative to offer fans a live broadcast of the event. It was far better watching the national team qualify on TV than hearing about it over the radio, as ERT had arranged. Tuesday’s 2-1 loss away to Turkey, in the second match of their two-leg qualifier, guaranteed Greece its finals berth after a 3-0 win at home last Friday. No doubt, ERT’s lack of interest in soccer will provoke much talk in days to come. But for the time being, this writeup will focus on the national under-21 team’s achievement. The young side’s serious approach to the game was admirable. Showing plenty of maturity, Greece’s players paid no attention to the home-crowd cacophony coming from the 15,000 Turkish fans in the stands. For Greek fans, the game took on a worrisome character when the opponent opened the scoring early. But the Greek team responded with grit to confront Turkey’s desperate onslaught. When Greece struck back with an equalizing goal, the two-leg qualifier’s outcome had been all but decided. To date, five teams, including Greece, have secured their berths in the finals, which will be held between May 16-28 next year. (The event’s host has yet to be decided by UEFA, the sport’s European governing body.) Also through are the Czech Republic, England, Belgium, Portugal and France. Having registered victories away from home in the first legs, against Poland and Ukraine respectively, Italy and Switzerland were heavily favored to gain finals berths in games played late last night. It was encouraging to see the Greek team open up and pursue victory after it had equalized. Compared with the side’s cohesion, talent, friendship, and above all, love for their team, Tuesday’s match score is irrelevant. Returning to the issue of media coverage, interest in the under-21 national team will rise come May next year. Let’s hope that next time around, state-run television shows greater enthusiasm for covering Greece’s quest. Greek fans enjoy viewing their junior team in action. Stare-run television has no right to deprive them.

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