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Greek Football CrisisDissertation

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¶ … country of Greece is experiencing an ever-increasing financial crisis that some people suggest has worsened the sport of football within Greece and amongst Greek players. An olden past time, the Ancient Greeks played numerous ball games involving the feet. The first Greek team game, Episkyros, was then adapted by the Romans into harpastum and even mentioned by Antiphanes in his written work. Similar to present day rugby football, ancient football involved teamwork and footwork. Rich in history and scandal, Greek football has had its fair share of problems before the great financial crisis of present day.

The ones that see the issues surrounding Greek football blame it on the structure of the teams and the lack of regulation among players and leagues. People have noted along with several news articles, that Greek football is rampant with corruption and hooliganism. The main team of Greece, the Champions of Greece, are the Olympiakos, headed by Evangelos Marinakis, and they are the ones that set the boundaries and examples for other football teams to follow. When they experience instances of negative behavior and corruption, it seeps back into the other team, thus creating a negative effect within Greek football and overall player development.

After the ancient Greeks and Romans, Greek football took a present day format with invention of the league system in 1927. It was officially founded as the Panhellenic Championship and this first, professional football league lasted over three decades until 1959. Alpha Ethniki replaced Panhellenic Championship and ran for almost five decades, ending its run in 2006. In 2006, Superleague Greece took its place. News articles and surveys cite Superleague Greece with having several issues prior to the economic Greek crisis with 70% of players in 2011 reporting not being paid. The Greek economic crisis had its roots in 2008 with severe economic turmoil in 2012. This paper is meant to elucidate on the history of Greek football, the current top team, Evangelos, Marinakis, and the various literature that cite corruption and hooliganism as a big problem in Greek football before the financial collapse of Greece. Thusly, showing that financial instability was and is not the root cause of problems within Greek football, but rather, is just a small problem amidst bigger issues.

History

The current league system of Greece, Superleague Greece, consists of sixteen clubs. Winners of the league become Champions of Greece and as earlier mentioned, Olympiakos has won thirty nine times, and earned five Super League Titles, Nineteen Alpha Ethniki titles, and fifteen Panhellenic Championships. Olympiakos is an old team, spanning over all three Greek football leagues and have existed for many decades. Among the main team and most known, stand two other dominating forces of Greek football, Pananthinaikos and AEK Athens. Each winning twenty-one and eleven titles.

Besides regular Greek football, in the last twenty-seven years, women's football has developed a national league and is now referred to as the Greek football women A division. Although separate from Greek football, it has existed and continues to exist with similar structure and issues like dominance by singular clubs or teams. Pan-Thessalonian Athletic Club of Constantinopolitans, a Greek association football club, dominates women's football in Greece. It is an old club like the team Olympiakos, beginning in 1953.

When one says issues, Greek football has experienced several problems regarding corruption, hooliganism and missed opportunities like in the Euro 2004 event. Match fixing although extensively seen in Europe in general, is perhaps most prevalent in Greece. The Koriopolis a term deemed by the Greek press for a scandal-involving match fixing in Greek football and is a term that describes the events of June 2011 and the Olympiakos team. The inquiry centers on offences comprising of fraud, illegal gambling, money laundering, and extortion. Olympiakos the main football of Greece gave its leader, Marinakis, money and power more than just within the boundaries of the football industry.

The money he made gained him political influence in Greece as well as control of certain outcomes within Greek society and of course, Football matches. Marinakis ran as an independent in 2014 and acquired a seat as local council member in Piraeus, a port city. To add increasing measure to the level of power he has, his prior club spokesperson won the station of mayor. The effortlessness with which they both gained public office shows how Greece views Football and its management personnel.

Football in a way possesses the unrivaled power to act as a conduit between social gaps and unite the most random group of fans and people behind a shared goalpost. However, even with Marinakis' fortune and the ability for him to turn his team into a top notch team, Olympiakos and other Greek Football teams failed to deliver the kind of top-caliber performance one would expect from football teams. This was made especially clear going into Euro 2004. "The Greeks were total outsiders going into Euro 2004, having not been in the competition in the previous 24 years, and with their last appearance at an international tournament a disastrous showing in the 1994 World Cup" (Economopoulos, 2014).

The 1994 World Cup and the poor performance of the Greeks provide clear indication that Greek Football had its pitfalls long before economic instability in Greece. Moreover, even when Greece had some success in the Euro 2004 event, they did not manage to capitalize on it. "Greece failed to capitalize on their unexpected triumph, at least in the beginning. The malaise of the 1994 World Cup side returned to the squad in the 2005 Confederations Cup where Greece lost to Brazil (3-0), Japan (1-0)" (Economopoulos, 2014). What kind of teams are Greece running if they cannot compete on an international level? Are the poor performances due to match fixing?

Even with some success in recent times in Euro 2012, Greece still had trouble making it to the finals. "Greece remained undefeated in qualification for Euro 2012 but were short of luck in the finals, making it through their group but facing eventual finalists Germany in the quarter finals, who blasted Greece 4-2" (Economopoulos, 2014). Their performance in 2012 acts as a way to show the Greeks can still perform well even amidst economic turmoil and that the system in place in Greek Football still has major problems in proper training of its players. Sadly, it does not seem like the Greek government cares much about regulating the happenings within Greek Football. Instead of owners of football clubs wishing to improve their players and their teams, they instead want to secure political positions, money, and power. "Owning a football club has increasingly become a means of securing political influence in many European countries. The recent Koriopolis scandal in Greece is just one example of this" (NICULESCU, 2014).

A prime example of this is Evanegelos Marinakis. "Evangelos Marinakis is the president and owner of Olympiakos, and star protagonist of Greek football's biggest corruption scandal. Known as Koriopolis, the case around Marinakis and approximately 80 other suspects focuses on charges of bribery and match fixing" (NICULESCU, 2014). Evangelos has amassed quite a bit of wealth and power from his position as owner and president of Olympiakos. Not only has he been allegedly involved in match fixing, but he has also attempted and succeeded in gaining power in the Greek government.

The scandal that erupted in Greece with match fixing is nothing new. Match fixing existed in Ancient Greece as well. "…match fixing scandals were reported some 2,800 years ago, in Classical Greece. Athletes and coaches caught cheating were forced to erect statues of gods in front of the ancient Olympics venue in order to expiate their sins" (Krol, 2014). Nevertheless, dissimilar from those instances of history, Modern Greek society is progressively complacent. Europe has witnessed multiple instances of match fixing in football in the past. However, none have been as pervasive as in Greece and in Greek football. "The Koriopolis scandal is a snapshot of how a football owner can use a club as a tool to benefit from a country's fragile rule of law. During the Koriopolis scandal, Marinakis was both the owner of Olympiakos and the Hellenic Football Federation's vice-president at the same time" (NICULESCU, 2014). The Koriopolis scandal not only displayed the lack of proper regulation in Greek football, but also the lax laws concerning management of football clubs and teams within Greece.

People attach the economic turmoil experienced within Greece with the corruption of Greek football. However, this level of corruption existed long ago, before Greece experienced economic instability. Logically speaking, if the owner of a long running football club shows corrupt ways and performs match fixing, it must mean this kind of activity has been going on for quite some time. Marinakis did not amass his wealth within just a few short years. It took him at least a few decades to get to where he is now in terms of wealth and status. Surely, he was fixing matches long before the financial decline of Greece.

Moreover, the scandal was… [END OF PREVIEW]

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