9 February ~ It's Apokries (carnival) in Athens at the moment. While transvestites, pirates and clowns bounced along the streets outside, Olympiakos were notching up a 5-1 win against Levadiakos in a match played at an empty Karaiskaki stadium, closed as punishment for previous crowd trouble. When the home side's Matt Derbyshire lifted up his shirt after scoring to reveal the legend "George Prionas" ("George Chainsaw") it might have looked like a carnival stunt.
But George Prionas was Olympiakos' recently sacked physio and Derbyshire's gesture a "Team Bridge" moment. After a superb first half of the season in Greece, Derbyshire has struggled with injuries in his first full term. Rumour had it that his recovery from a summer hernia operation had been complicated by a rushed return ordered from on high. Derbyshire, in short, has much to praise Prionas for.
However, with Olympiakos' grasp on the league title looking to have slipped for the first time in six years and with two managers already sacked this season (Temuri Ketsbaia and Zico) further sacrifices were needed to appease owner Socrates Kokkalis. The club's season having been derailed by injuries, Prionas was next to be axed.
A mobile phone company magnate whose influence stretches across the Balkans, Kokkalis is not renowned for his tolerance of dissent, or, of anything. He can't fail to have noticed the T-shirt gesture. By chance or design, Derbyshire's show of solidarity may get him into trouble. Scott Anthony