Saturday, July 3, 2004

The fairy tale continues

/ football / party time /

With the possible exception of Otto Rehhagel no one here believed that the Greek national team could go this far in the European cup. Not even the players themselves. Yet, as if in a dream, this team managed to reach the final. Granted the football they’re playing is not pretty, the offensive talent displayed is far from impressive and maybe a disinterested football fan would wish for the far more spectacular Spain, or Czech Republic in Greece’s place.
Yet this is the most accomplished *team* in the tournament, the team with the most consistent performance and the team with the clearest strategy, run by a coach that has outsmarted all of his opponents except the schizophrenic Russians. It has been a joy to watch them, game after game, play their hearts out, proving that a team with passion, intensity, solid teamwork and a clear gameplan can outlast opponents with even the most brilliant individual talent (France).

The scene in Athens last night was delirious; for the second time in a few days, pretty much everyone was on the roads waving flags, celebrating, making noise till daybreak. It was the biggest party (until the next one?) since 1987 (when Greece won the European Basketball cup) although this was possibly even bigger.

Not only Greece celebrated: from what we hear, from Melbourne to Toronto and from Munich to New York, Greeks poured out in large numbers making all sorts of noise.
Not only Greeks celebrated: the African, Kurdish, Arab and Bangladeshi immigrants joined the party, some with musical instruments some dancing and hugging everyone in sight. A good sign, surely, maybe even a hopeful sign, for a society which, it turns out, might not have the grave assimilation problems we thought it had! (The fascist groups that showed up and tried to translate all this flag-waving into an anti-immigrant ethnic-superiority type of statement, failed – being marginalized by the mass of the people who left them miserably alone in their hate-fest.)

Also, according to BBC-Greek, Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat stated his support for the Greek team, as (allegedly) did Serdar Denktash!... Hurriyet sent a trans-Aegean message of support with a "congratulations neighbours!" headline in Greek ("Siharitiria gitones!")! - who said that football doesn't bring people closer together?!

So the Greek Fairy Tale continues. A little taste: a recap of Greece's matches from the BBC commentary (Real Audio files): Portugal, Spain, Russia, France and Czech Republic. But the really interesting (zipped) mp3s are the Greek sportcaster's (from the Radio station Sport-FM) descriptions of the winning goals mixed with the Greek national anthem as sung by the fans in the stadium and a greek popular song! You really don't need to know the language to enjoy his commentary of the goals against France and against the Czechs (zip files - both of them).

If Greece wins against Portugal, I can't imagine what more could possibly happen... How bigger can a celebration be?

(And yes, I know... football is the new opiate of the masses and I really shouldn't fall for this etc. etc. ... but really these past few weeks have been *fun*! What a party!)

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