All that happened on Sunday night in Thessaloniki’s football stadium does simply devastate, humiliate, and discredit Greek football. It also deals a tremendous blow to the image and seriousness of the country.
The photographs of a gun-toting football club president were seen internationally, creating the impression of a third world country or a banana republic.
The much-touted reform of football, which the government supposedly began, ended up with a situation that is infinitely worse, as it turns out. We have reached the point that certain people think that not only can they change laws and regulations, but that they can even impose their own gun law with no fear.
The government’s kneejerk reaction, to indefinitely suspend the Super League, is merely a smokescreen for what it previously tolerated or cooperated with.
The impunity of the president of PAOK F.C. did not arise suddenly. The government nurtured it, making him a privileged interlocutor, so as to control the media and create its own alliances within Greek football. We saw ministers embracing him, and unprecedented judicial decisions in the wee hours of the morning.
Now, the government is scampering to impose law and order in stadiums, punishing all of Greek football indiscriminately. No one all along had kept them from enforcing the laws and regulations.
They let the situation spin out of control, effectively evicting healthy football fans from stadiums, and undermining whatever credibility remains in the sport, and of course their own credibility.
Unfortunately, football, the par excellence popular sport, is increasingly losing its credibility and lure. With selective enforcement of the law, offsets, attacks, brutishness, and constant government interventions, there can be no clean up in Greek football.
Sunday’s events did not come out of the blue. For weeks and months we have witnessed the situation spinning out of control, with those responsible simply turning a blind eye.
Problems cannot be transcended or forgotten with the easy solution of a general ban.
Bolder political decisions are needed in order to to stop the decline, and to create the conditions for just and healthy competition, without pistols and threats. If they are up to the task, hic Rhodus hic salta.