Club's vice president looks set to become mayor
24 May ~ In April, as Olympiakos wrapped up their 41st league title, the club's vice president, Yannis Moralis, announced the formation of a new political movement – the Piraeus Victorious party. While the team notched up their fourth title in a row, their ninth in the past ten seasons, voters in Piraeus were offered the opportunity to vote Olympiakos. Moralis has put himself forward as mayor, while the party's junior candidates include former players such as iconic goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis. It's a decision that looks set to be a spectacular success.
After winning the first round last week, Moralis faces a head-to-head contest with the current mayor, Vasilis Mihaloliakos, of the centre-right New Democracy party on May 25. Should Moralis win, which appears likely, it would be the equivalent of Bruce Buck or Daniel Levy succeeding Boris Johnson.
The emergence of Piraeus Victory is part of a wider trend of disaggregation and realignment in Greek politics, as support seeps away from the established political parties tied into implementing policies dictated by the troika of the EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The TV presenter Stavros Theodorakis, in slightly Kilroyesque fashion, recently founded the "River" Party leading to the jibe that his was a television show pretending to be a political party. Piraeus Victory, you might argue, is the football club equivalent.
Outside Greece, when football owners and politics mix (as in the case of Silvio Berlusconi or the ex-Boca Juniors president Mauricio Macri in Argentina) the result tends to be a shade of populist authoritarianism. It is equally difficult to place Piraeus Victory neatly on any ideological scale as Moralis has backers across the political spectrum, although his rival Mihaloliakos has accused him of courting the extreme right. It's been reported that sections of Olympiakos' hardcore Gate 7 fans support the neo-Nazi organisation Golden Dawn, and Mihaloliakos believes that part of their vote has transferred to Piraeus Victory.
"Piraeus needs to look to the sea," Moralis said at the launch of the Party. "That is why merchant marine sector and business leaders, like Marinakis, have joined us. We will realise everything we promise. We know how to win. Piraeus will emerge victorious."
Critics of Piraeus Victory have painted Moralis as the placeman of the club's owner, Vagelis Marinakis, a shipping magnate. Marinakis plans to capitalise, along with the club's former owner Petros Kokkalis, on the planned "liberalisation" of Piraeus, with the aim of transforming the port of Athens into the Singapore of the east Mediterranean. More sceptical fans and voters will be hoping that this doesn't simply equate to the real estate equivalent of Fulham's £10 million "liberalisation" of their star striker Kostas Mitroglou. Scott Anthony
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