By Dionysis Dellis

The “elephant is in the room”, and yet, most people not only pretend it’s not there, they’ve actually convinced themselves it’s nothing less than “business as usual”.

In simple terms: The Greek football federation, and by extension professional football, is being held hostage by a “handful” of individuals. This is a group of know-it-alls, which was supposedly going to “clean up” the Super League, but obeys no law and loses no opportunity to stage a show of force.

Everything that’s been transpiring this week with Aris FC, and the way the team was deprived of what it won on the pitch, is a prime example; a club that finalized a spot in European play and which was properly licensed, is now suddenly threatened with losing everything, due to an intervention by the Hellenic Football Federation’s (EPO) licensing committee.

Why? As we have said before, because the “elephant is walking around the room” and everyone pretends it’s not there!

To be precise, almost everyone, because an intervention by Vangelis Marinakis a while back, during a Super League board meeting, if nothing else, demonstrated and proved that, on the one hand, there is someone with the necessary reflexes and bearing, and on the other, that no one can continue to pretend that they “do not see, hear or understand”.

The situation has long exceeded all tolerable limits. And if those who pay for football out of their own pockets don’t intervene, if those who invest in football don’t put an end to this, then in a short while there will be no turning back. How did Olympiacos’ owner put it? “To save football from thuggery,” the harshest truth in just five words.

He said much more during his intervention, beyond the “competition” of football clubs and petty interests; statements that will either shake up Greek professional football, even at the last minute, or, if they go unheeded, send it down a bottomless pit. The issue isn’t just Aris FC and the unforeseen obstacles placed before the team, something that’s reminiscent of a “coup”. What’s at stake is the present and future of Greek professional football.

A cadre by the name Sarakis

“The issue that’s arisen with the licensing of Aris FC doesn’t concern just one team. In essence, it highlights a miserable state of decline that has engulfed Greek football and permeates the Hellenic Football Federation; it’s absolute thuggery,” Marinakis, the owner of this year’s Super League champions, underlined.

He continued: “What has happened? A guy named Sarakis, who should have been expelled from the Hellenic Football Federation, when he publicly confessed that he provided a tailor-made legal opinion, in violation of the federation statutes and licensing regulations, [a protagonist in the Super League 2 illegal licensing scandal] is today the person who decides on the licensing of teams; who processes the confidential data of our companies and determines, with his recommendations, whether we will play in Europe or not, whether we will make transfers, whether we we’ll have six transfers, etc. This man has already been dragged before a hearing by the ethics committee for violating the licensing regulations – and its decision is expected, which could get him suspended from professional football for life.”

Will this disgrace continue?

Marinakis continued, in a scathing manner, to detail the behavior of Vassilis Sarakis.

“This man, who provided ‘mail-ordered’ opinions in order to circumvent the licensing regulation, is now responsible for examining the files of all of us, recommending whether we will be licensed or not; whether we will play in Europe or not. In other words, he is the official that determines not just one match, but an entire season; a guy who admits to being someone’s pawn. I say again, instead of being thrown out, he was rewarded and became the head of licensing, determining the future of all of us. So what else needs to be done? We are investing millions, our athletes are giving their utmost effort, yet this will be undermined by Sarakis and Filippoussis through tampered organizational charts? Where do you think this dishonesty will lead? Will we and our fans sit idly by and tolerate your ‘fixing’ and corruption every time? Will low-level, untrained and uneducated people, who do not even speak English, determine whether we will play in European competitions?”

Criminal offenders are running Greek football and our league, yet those who are institutionally responsible will remain spectators? Furthermore, what has the government been doing for the past three years now? Is it “asleep at the wheel” and can’t intervene?

‘Play by yourselves’

“It will not be long before some 10 serious people, who are left, will say, ‘if you want this type of professional football, then play by yourselves.’ And then let’s see what will be left and who will put up even a single euro for this type of football, with a federation that’s the butt of everyone’s jokes. You saw what happened with AEK FC, the wrath of their fans. Should they have gone to the federation’s offices?

“We make million-euro deals to fill our roster; we pay out millions of euros every year to the federation for contract and transfer contributions yet our future and planning depend on 10 uneducated derelicts, who sit with feet on their desks manipulating puppets like Sarakis?”
Τhe scandal in Volos, and the machinations behind it

“Everyone remembers the scandal during the Cup final Cup Volos, in September 2020, where we had to play with the previous season’s roster, if when the new season had started. It was as if the federation was trying to manipulate the game through all sorts of trickery.”

“Once again we are hearing of machinations in order to avoid validate scores and other devious tricks? Have you ever heard of any other football federations worldwide doing this?

Everyone’s laughing at them, from Qatar all the way to the United States. Teams and federations call us on the phone, laughing at the Greek federation. Their executives went to Qatar and stuffed food in their pockets during banquets; whenever they go to meetings abroad we hear stories of them snatching blankets and pillows from hotels and food from buffets. It’s so disgusting.”

“The only sure thing is that this situation cannot continue. It’s high time we decided what kind of football we want. Ιt’s up to every team to decide what kind of football it wants. Do you want European football or want the type of football that people like Sarakis, Giannakises, Antoniou, Dimitriou and their bosses want”.

Suggestions, solutions to three problems

In addressing Giorgos Borovilos and Giorgos Spanos and other members of the Super League regarding the future of the League, Vangelis Marinakis underlined:
“We may be rivals on the field, but now we are owners and our mission is to create, to invest millions in amid a serious business environment. We want to solve three problems. A solution could be to have 10 foreign referees, with whom we have no relations, allowing them to officiate games properly and honestly. Couldn’t this be a solution?

We can have serious people in professional football, in licensing, people who know how to do the math, who speak foreign languages, who can talk directly to UEFA. We need seriousness and level-headedness. The same goes for sponsors. In order to attract serious sponsors, we must first show that we are serious. We also need to create value in Greek football, for the talented players we have in our country, for football to be able to promote these players, to make the sport better and more competitive.”

The Olympiacos owner concluded on a unifying note, with his intervention indicative: “I may also clash with AEK, PAOK, Panathinaikos, but this is on the pitch. Here, we must calmly make decisions that will be for the good of both big and small teams.”

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