Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Panathinaikos' Prince Charming

This is an article published in the last issue of the Ovi magazine - Ovi lehti

What really is going on with Panathinaikos is not exactly a mystery. It is like one of these mysteries you find in pulp fiction and you know the murderer by the second chapter. Usually the battler is the murderer, but in Panathinaikos' case it is the lord - please don't confuse Panathinaikos' Lord with the Finnish Lordi that won the Eurovision Contest. These rock monsters have heavy monstrous make-up but this is where it stops, Panathinaikos' lord is a monster inside and outside.

What's the story? There is this almighty Greek family with a lot of money. This happens sometimes in small countries like Greece, where the state is damn poor; the number of people living in poverty is damn high and unemployment is booming. Greece is one of these poor countries that have some Greek names on the richest people on the globe lists. I was really careful using the phrase "Greek names" because after these people become rich they usually pretend that they are not Greeks. However, that doesn't count for this certain mystery family, but I thought it was a good place to make the hint.

This certain family owns many things. Philanthropist institutions, animal settlers, oil companies, media organizations, a football team and a prince. This prince is sort of Charles story; you know the one from England with the Greek daddy - another Greek who doesn't like to say it. Back to Charles, everybody tries hard to show how cool, clever, intellectual and responsible, but it takes only one look at his photograph to understand why nobody wants him to become a king. Actually nobody knows what to do with him, so they keep him doing charities and playing polo.

With the Greek family's prince things were a bit more demanding. You see, royal families are fine; the only things you have to do are show up at the right time and make occasional speeches written by the government, whether you like them or not. In Greek families, especially the ones into business, you have to do far more. You have to think. You have to act. You have to bring money. In this case the prince was a failure in all above, so the family decided to follow the royal English family's example and led him into high-society and the jet-set life of a play-boy.

However, in this case even Charles looks like Prince Charming compared to them, so they decided to follow another way. Charles has horses, the Greek will have Ferrari. In the end both will have horses. He was even dreaming to be the next Senna - you know, the Brazilian F1 driver who's dead now, but alive when our prince was driving his Ferrari. Another failure but something good came out of it. The prince now had a shop with Ferrari spare parts in Athens. The family felt that he might have a chance, so they decided to give him a second challenge: a football team.

They could have given him a team from the fifth local neighborhood division and nobody would really mind, but they had to give him the most popular, world famous Greek team, Panathinaikos. Having a small spare parts shop in Athens is one thing, how many Ferraris are in Athens? How many spare parts you can sell? How much can you screw up with a shop like that? But Panathinaikos?

The prince's failure did everything to screw the team but most of all he did everything to screw the people who are this team, the fans and the players, past and present. For the football players, football is a job with a time limit hanging over their heads. If you don't enjoy your job or have problems with your boss the best solution is change work.

The prince has made a lot of valuable players want to change team. Even move to the all-time villain Olympiakos. Somehow I do understand that. I have moved to another company, even to a competitor, but I think the attitude is when you wake-up one morning and you don't want to go to the same place to work change job as soon as possible. I don't blame the players for moving away, even though a couple of them hurt me deeply.

What made it worst was that the prince did it intentionally, pushing them out trying to establish his regime and his way 'my way or the highway', while the team was beginning to drift away from titles and glories. To make it worst, one of his 'yes boss' coaches dared say in an interview that we should 'forget the good old times, it is not the same team and that we should look to the future' was the point I started getting angry.

In many ways and in many different articles, especially political articles, I have often emphasized that history is what gives identity, self-respect and motivation, and we have seen how it works with whole nations or how the lack of history doesn't work for others. Panathinaikos' history is part of what the team is. For every jersey the family sells, from every single ticket they sell they exchange this history. For every cent they put in their wallets is an exchange of this history. And who mainly gives them this money? Panathinaikos fans. The other half that makes this team.

Panathinaikos is not a playground for the Prince Charming or a test phase for a rich family's brat. Panathinaikos is the oldest Greek team and the only representative of Greek football outside the Greek boarders. Panathinaikos is the heart beat of thousands of people and they have to understand it.

What's the cure for this team? The family has to go away. As far away as they can, I will forgive them even if they imitate other rich Greek families and they pretend that they are not Greeks. They committed the murder and they must stop before they become mass murderers, if they haven't!!!

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