Negativity damages game

A frequently aired local TV ad, depicting a soccer fan trashing a soccer player one moment and idolizing him the next, reflects the dual nature of Greek soccer fans. The game’s very nature does tend to generate extreme feelings, but nowhere else – except, perhaps, Turkey – is the fickleness as extreme as it is here. Yesterday’s heroes become today’s traitors, and vice versa. «First is first and second is nothing,» an attitude that makes up the backbone of American competitiveness, has been infused into the Greek mentality to a far greater degree than in other parts of Europe. Based on Greek logic, giants like Liverpool and Inter, both without domestic titles for nearly two decades, would have been written off the map. Surprisingly, talking to locally based coaches or players from the continent’s top competitions indicates that their opinion of Greek soccer is greater than ours. Alberto Malesani, Panathinaikos’s recently ousted Italian coach, whose career includes a UEFA Cup triumph with Parma and collaboration with world-class players, said his compatriots were wrong in seeing Greek soccer negatively. Norwegian coach Trond Sollied of Olympiakos and Fernando Santos, who recently left AEK to join Benfica, have both expressed favorable opinions of Greek competition. The Portuguese have far greater respect for Santos, which explains his recruitment at Benfica, despite the coach’s lack of major success with the country’s two other major clubs, Porto and Sporting Lisbon. Through the eyes of Greek supporters, Santos failed here because he did not win titles with AEK. Few acknowledged the inferior talent – compared to the league’s other big clubs – Santos had at his disposal. The situation is similar at Panathinaikos, whose fans protest that the Athens club has degenerated into one of Europe’s more innocuous clubs. Yet, in four encounters within a year with this season’s Champions League finalists, Barcelona and Arsenal, Panathinaikos lost just once. Over the past five years, this «small team» has registered victories against giants Juventus, Barcelona, Arsenal, Porto, Eindhoven, and Werder Bremen. The negative thinking here must stop and things must be put into real perspective, both in success or failure. A distorted view of things can only be detrimental. The sooner we realize this, the better.