17 June ~ Get Back screamed the front page of the Athens sport daily Filathlos on the wake of Greece's defeat from Korea in Port Elizabeth last Saturday. "The laughing stock of the tournament" added Sportday, while Ora – referring to the traumatic experience of the 1994 World Cup – spoke of a sequel. At a time when uncertainty has covered almost every aspect of Greek social life it is refreshing to see the sports press still treating a defeat of the Greek football team as a national disaster.
Quite conveniently for these Angela Merkel-bashing times the main villain was a German, albeit one of our own. King Otto found few supporting voices among the press corps who cannot get over the fact that he remains as impervious to their suggestions today as he was upon his arrival in Greece ten years ago. For all his high visibility, Rehhagel is still an inscrutable mystery that the Greek press simply cannot cope with. Not surprisingly the headline of sport daily Goalnews last Sunday called on the players to simply "ignore him".
Yet, it seems that the media's ritualistic outrage reflects more its own sense of frustration than the prevailing public mood. Judging by phone-ins or internet postings, the reaction to the Korea defeat has been rather mild. Few feigned surprise, while many chose to express their gratitude for the Greek team's past achievements. A sense of resigned fatalism prevails, the very same feeling that has swept the country since March, when Greeks abruptly woke up to the fact that they had all but gone bankrupt.
In a country where the only realistic prospect for the future is mass impoverishment, it is really hard to get worked up over the fortunes of the national team. Even mentions of Greece's triumph in Portugal these days do not inspire, but rather express nostalgia for a bygone era, a time when everything was possible – cheap mortgages, viable social security, low unemployment and Greece winning Olympic gold and major football trophies. It's hard to believe it's only six years since Lisbon. Paul Pomonis