SPORTS

Euroleague starts as local basketball is scarred by players’ industrial action

Olympiakos and Real Madrid are raising the curtain of the Euroleague, the continent’s top basketball club competition, tonight in Piraeus, despite the Greek basketball players’s strike, which only concerns the domestic league. The match tips off at 9.45 p.m. at the Peace and Friendship Stadium and will only be the second competitive match for the Reds this season, after their away win over Panellinios for the Cup last week. On Thursday, Greece’s other representative in the Euroleague, Panathinaikos, visits Valencia, also with only one competitive game so far this season. In view of the basketball players’ decision to strike, league organizer ESAKE announced on Friday the postponement of the first round of games from Saturday and yesterday to the following weekend (October 23-24), although it is not certain the opening round of the A1 league will actually take place then. The Panhellenic Association of Professional Basketball Players (PSAK) called an indefinite strike from Thursday, demanding social security for the A2 division players; for the application of the law regarding clubs that cannot prove their solvency on time; and the increase of the guarantee fee each club has to submit at the start of every season. «Basketball does not exist in this country anymore. Let the championship begin next year,» said PSAK president Lazaros Papadopoulos, the PAOK forward. The question now is what clubs are prepared to do if the strike goes on. ESAKE announced on Friday that any players who do not take part in their teams’ activity will suffer financial or other penalties, such as termination of contracts. «Our intention is to allow players some time to revise their decision and redefine their attitude for the benefit of Greek basketball,» the ESAKE statement suggested. What is more, Thanassis Giannakopoulos, the brother of Panathinaikos president Pavlos Giannakopoulos, threatened that Panathinaikos might join another league next year. He was probably referring to the unofficial plan for the creation of a Mediterranean League, also involving teams from Israel and Turkey. If such a plan does materialize in the future, it would involve the top two Greek teams, Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, who would not participate in the regular season of the Greek league but only in its playoffs.