‘Sports are life, support them now’: The fight to resume football in Greece

Sara Daebritz of Germany tackles Eleni Kakambouki of Greece.
Sara Daebritz of Germany tackles Eleni Kakambouki of Greece during the UEFA Women's European Championship 2021 qualifier match between Greece and Germany at Kleanthis Vikelidis on October 8, 2019 in Thessaloniki, Greece. (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images for DFB)

It’s been 10 months since the last women’s football game ever took place in Greece.

On 5 February, hundreds of athletes, coaches and lovers of the game rallied against the apparent discrimination that women’s football faces.

Once more, women’s football is the absolute victim of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is especially true in a country where nonprofessional sports struggle to survive.

The rally for justice

Protesters hold a banner during a peaceful rally in Athens.
A peaceful rally takes place in Syntagma Square of Athens.

“Sports are life, support them now” was the main motto in the latest protest that passed through downtown Athens, the capital of Greece.

First division sports of any kind are taking place without any issue. Yet, amateur sports remain on ice since the pandemic emerged last year.

“We understand and sympathize with the people’s frustration and the economical, competing and psychological fallout, which is a big part of our society,” said Nikos Hardalias, Greece’s General Secretariat for Civil Protection. “However, we plead for patience and we hope for better results in the upcoming days in order to get the results we want for the sporting family in our country.”

Howbeit, only 0.5 percent of Covid-19 tests have returned positive, putting Hardalias’ words under heavy doubt. As a result, when sports needed them the most, people from all social levels showed up and rallied for justice.

Start of Greek women’s first division is postponed until further notice

Players of PAOK FC pose before their match.
Players of PAOK FC pose before taking on SL Benfica in the first qualifying round of the 2020/21 UEFA Women’s Champions League. (Photo by PAOK FC)

Across Europe, all kinds of women’s sports have resumed play. That is, bearing in mind the heavy casualties they had to face in doing so. All, but Greek women’s first division football, whose kickoff still remains a mystery.

Greece is the only country in the “Peninsula of Eurasia” where no action whatsoever has taken place in the last 10 months.

The latest Minister decree didn’t include any notes regarding women’s football. Because of this, team training is strictly prohibited in the country.

Greek national team faced Germany with no training beforehand

Sara Dabritz of Germany is challenged by Athanasia Moraitou and Thomai Vardali of Greece.
Sara Dabritz of Germany is challenged by Athanasia Moraitou and Thomai Vardali of Greece. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Back on 27 November, the Greek national team got crushed against Germany. They lost 6-0 in the Euro 2022 qualifying match.

On one hand, the result mirrored the vast difference these two countries have in terms of quality. But on the other hand, it was an unfair outcome for the Greeks. It demonstrated how poorly the government body handles amateur sports in Greece.

The Greek nationals played against the eight-time European champions without being able to train for almost six months! Due to the imposed laws, players couldn’t properly prepare for their game against one of the best teams in the world.

The federation showed no mercy for their own women’s national team. They left them stranded in “God’s hands” against a far better side. To put it simply, the Greek federation declined their women the chance to fight for a better result.

Football will lose the race against the other amateur sports in Greece

Despoina Chatzinikolaou of Greece and Katie McCabe of the Republic of Ireland challenge for the ball.
Despoina Chatzinikolaou of Greece and Katie McCabe of the Republic of Ireland challenge for the ball. (Photo by Ryan Byrne/INPHO)

As prevoiusly stated, the mutual Minister decree showed no interest in providing a fair explanation on why football amongst other sports isn’t allowed to initiate. Meanwhile, sports such as volleyball, basketball, handball and polo have already resumed in every Greek city.

The Greek government profoundly denied the restart of amateur football (which includes women’s football) until next week. The same statement was made the previous week and the week before that.

As a result, most of the athletes are now in need of economic aid, which might profoundly divert their attention from football to something more financially sustainable.

That would not only affect amateur football’s quality but it might as well work as an obstruction in the growth of women’s football in Greece.

Women’s football own cry for help

Thenia Zerva speaks to the camera.
Thenia Zerva calls for justice in support of Greek women’s football. (Photo by PSAP 1976)

Ten players from the Greek women’s national team decided to take action against the glaring discrimination that women’s football is facing right now. These ten women raised their voices against the parity’s impingement that Greek women’s football is experiencing today.

The international players explained the current situation via a video, in which they appear to state their position. Once more, they stand together and remain firmly against anyone who seeks to give the kiss of death to their dreams.