Deluge dampens charity game

Extreme weather conditions yesterday deprived fans in and around the peripheral city of Drama, northern Greece, from seeing the Greek squad defeat a regional side comprising various players from lower-league clubs in a charity match which ended in a 5-1 score. It was Greece’s second friendly game since its qualification for next summer’s Euro 2004 finals, following a recent 1-1 away draw against the forthcoming competition’s host, Portugal. The pressure on the Greek squad seems to have eased during these early steps ahead of competition time in Portugal next summer. Last week, the entire squad was widely criticized for failing to turn up to a long-running sports journalists’ awards ceremony to collect a prize for Team of the Year. President Costis Stephanopoulos attended the decades-old ceremony, held by the Panhellenic Sports Press Association (PSAT) to award winners their prizes. Also there were two world-renowned retired athletes present, British rower Sir Steve Redgrave, winner of gold medals at the last five Olympiads, and Ukranian pole-vaulting legend Sergei Bubka, a six-time world champion, to collect career achievement awards. Yesterday, the team was without its coach Otto Rehhagel, who is currently in his native Germany for the holiday season. An assistant, Yiannis Topalidis, led Greece through its comfortable win against a side made of players from second and third division clubs Doxa Drama, Panserraikos, and Kavala. «The game was not the main issue. It was important for us to come out here and attract people to the ground. Unfortunately, the weather did not help,» said the national team’s Michalis Kapsis. «The important thing is to collect the money for our fellow citizens in need. Well done to all the lads from Drama, Panserraikos and Kavala for competing against us,» he added.

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