August 22, 2008

Obnoxious Chelsea in Macau

Whilst I was staying in Macau, Premiership Corporation Club Chelsea came calling as part of their money-spinning football promoting Asian Tour.


They "played" Chinese side Chengdu Blades in the Macau Olympic Stadium, in a rather one-sided affair that ended up 7-0. In advance the promoters had announced that the game was sold out, but in the event the 15,000 seater stadium was barely half-full. I did think about going along, but eventually came to the conclusion that since I wouldn't be inclined to spend £20 watching a Chelsea pre-season friendly match in London, why should I suddenly go to one just because it was over here at the same time I was?

The downside was that town seemed to be much more full of loud-mouthed British ex-pats who supported Chelsea than usual. We encountered one particular example when we were having a meal at "Norman's Pub" in Hac Sa. He spent the entire afternoon boasting at great volume about his days as a Chelsea football hooligan in the 1980s, and how, in once having an Empire, "nobody could do what the effing British have done, nobody, not even effing Hitler". Nice chap, nice club.


June 27, 2008

Euro 2008 tough on Greece

Euro 2008 hasn't been easy on Greek national pride, as we've watched the champions slink home from Salzburg as the only team who failed to register a point at the tournament, whilst arch-rivals The Ottoman Empire Turkey sensationally advanced as far as the semis thanks to an improbable 'Roy Of The Rovers' style series of late goal comebacks.

Any criticism of the Greek team's performance from the English press seems to be met with a prickly "well you didn't even qualify". England can take some crumb of comfort from the fact that they were in the only qualifying group that produced two quarter-finalists (Croatia and Russia), but to be honest the tournament has probably been better for our absence. None of the gut-wrenching anxiety for days before an England game means I've enjoyed it much more than usual as well.

And, of course, it is always good to be able to observe German, Polish, Croatian and Turkish fans fighting, and a deafening silence from UEFA about expelling them - in contrast to the way England were treated at Euro 2000.

But just because England didn't qualify, doesn't mean we can't criticise the style of play adopted by the Greek team. It was a joyful surprise to see a nation from outside the big 6 win the trophy in 2004 - but this time around the Greeks were simply dour.

Still, one can understand the Greek attitude to criticism - 'my country, right or wrong' is a policy adopted by the highest echelons of Greek society. Only the other week Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos was complaining about Greece's MEPs:

"A lot has been said about Greece, and also, unfortunately, by Greek Euro-deputies...they accuse Greece of not following asylum rules. The least I would expect from Euro-deputies is to support the country."

Indeed. Never mind the facts. Never mind political principle. Never mind human compassion - the least we expect is for Greek MEPs to support the country, right or wrong.

In truth my biggest problem with supporting Greece at Euro 2008 was nothing to do with the style of play, but everything to do with the players. I have spent the last two years watching Greek domestic football and cursing Olympiakos, and I found it almost impossible to suddenly start cheering Torosidis, or not finding myself smiling at mistakes by Nikopolidis which cost goals. It isn't an anti-Greek thing - I find myself feeling exactly like that with Ashley Cole and David Bentley for England as well!

April 03, 2008

A week of 'name game' politics in football

Football can be a very political game here, and there were a couple of classic examples over the last couple of weeks. Last night NET had live coverage of Arsenal-Liverpool, followed by delayed coverage of Chelsea-Fenerbahce. What with it being 1am, I had to keep rather quiet as the Russian-money-all-stars came a cropper against the Turkish team. I also didn't want to be noticed by the neighbours openly supporting a Turkish team.

The Greek position on Turkey was made quite clear by the commentators, who, in defiance of the wisdom of The Four Lads, kept insisting the game was being played in somewhere called Constantinopolis.

And talking of international name disputes, last week's big game on a Wednesday night was an excellent win for Greece against Portugal, sparking memories of their Euro2004 triumph. The Greek fans behind the goal at one end had a very strong message for the NATO summit going on this week.


January 29, 2008

Greece in a 2010 World Cup draw - again

2010_world_cup_logo Tomorrow Greece will find out where and when they are playing their qualifying games for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. They already know who they are playing - Israel, Latvia, Luxembourg, Moldova and Switzerland. It is a group that should almost certainly see Greece qualify for their first World Cup since USA 1994.

However, the teams haven't been able to agree upon a fixture list, so FIFA will be drawing the games out at random in a conference room in Zagreb. The only other group unable to arrange their matches involves Armenia, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, Spain and Turkey.

It is usually quite easy to look at the team line-ups and spot who is likely to have been the intransigent party, but, as I say, with Group 2 looking like Greece's for the taking, it is is difficult to guess which of the countries got shirty about their fixtures.

Fate has a way of sorting these things out. The last time a group with England in failed to agree their dates, it was because of an issue between Turkey and England. England wanted to avoid at all costs their away match against Turkey being near the end of the campaign. The result of the draw - Turkey vs England as the last match in Istanbul (Κωνσταντινούπολις to Greek readers)


I've always been really interested in football, and whilst we were traveling I managed to take in games in Madrid, Milan and Rome. The World Cup started only a couple of months after we arrived in Hania - but Greece hadn't qualified. Just as well, because half-way through the tournament the Greek FA were briefly suspended from FIFA. Since then we have been trying to catch English football in various bars around Hania and Salzburg, and preparing for Euro2008. This is a list of all the posts about football we wrote before September 2007

A lemon tree of our own

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