Recently, Greece has been in the news. Their economic situation pushed them to near bankruptcy and the other European nations decided that they would no longer support a defunct system without the Greek government submitting a list of planned reforms. The newly elected left-wing government, after failing to change the Euro Zone’s austerity policies, turned in a list earlier this week. However, this new government has also been dealing with another seemingly broken system: the Greek football leagues.
For the third time this year, the Greek government suspended the Super League and the Football League due to violence during matches.
“What we have been informed is that the Super League and the Football League have been suspended indefinitely,” Super League president Giorgos Borovilos told reporters.
“We have a new government who are looking to bring this subject up for discussion and implement state laws related to it.”
In September, violent fights erupted between fans at a third division match between Ethnikos Piraeus and Irodotos. Tragically, one fan died. The government suspended all matches for one week.
Then, in November, tempers flared at a larger match and led to the hospitalization of an assistant director of Central Refereeing Committee (KED). Once again, the government was forced to step in and halt games.
On Wednesday, February 25th, the government suspended the leagues for the third time. This decision follows two major incidents in the preceding week.
First, a massive brawl exploded at a match between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos last weekend.
The video shows the riots before the match and the flares that had to be used to calm down fans. Although the teams have a long rivalry, the riots show a pattern of violence and a lack of control by the football leagues.
Second, a brawl erupted between club officials at a board meeting on Tuesday. This brawl between actual league organizers seems even more indicative that the leagues need reform. As Stavros Kontonis, the deputy minister for sport in Greece’s new left-wing government, told national TV news channel Skai, “When we see this violence from the stadium go to a boardroom of a football institution, then you understand that the situation is completely out of control.”
Earlier this year, Kontonis privately stated that the league would be suspended next year unless every club in the league of 18 introduces smart-card ticketing and security camera systems at future fixtures.
The Greek soccer leagues’ issues further illustrate the breadth of soccer. While soccer can be used as a world stage for many athletes, it also represents much more than a game for its fans. At times, the emotions of the game can be too powerful for its spectators. Frustrations at Greek’s economic and political struggles could easily factor in and cause tempers to explode amongst the normal people.
Interestingly enough, the soccer leagues can also be seen as a microcosm of Greece as a nation. The league organizers parallel the Greek government, the fans mirror the taxpayers, and the Greek government coincides with the Euro Zone. As the league organizers have started to lose control of the fans, the Greek government has given the leagues an ultimatum regarding their continued existence. Hopefully, both the soccer leagues and the Greek government will actually follow through on their promised reforms.