Greece is a big tourist destination, and combines great history, culture, and scenery. It also appears to have some crazy fans. In an interesting move, the Greek government has suspended all professional sports for two weeks after a fan was killed in a riot before a women's volleyball match.
A man was killed and seven others were hospitalized Thursday when fans from rival women's volleyball clubs Panathinaikos Athens and Olympiakos Piraeus fought near Athens.
"Violence in sport is something that affects our entire society ... and cannot be tolerated," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said Friday after an emergency cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
It looks like the Greeks may have found the culprits...
Police on Friday raided 15 supporters' clubs of Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, and homes of prominent club members, seizing dozens of makeshift weapons including pick axes, iron bars and baseball bats.Pick axes? Iron bars? Really? Have they been watching too much of the Sopranos?
This isn't the first time Greek sports fans have acted unruly. Particularly in soccer:
The national soccer team is likely to face sanctions from UEFA following Greece's 4-1 home loss to Turkey on Saturday in a European Championship qualifier. Greek fans clashed among themselves and also pelted Turkish players with sticks, coins and plastic water bottles.
In Thursday's clashes, several dozen fans on motorcycles clashed with rival supporters, hurling petrol bombs and rocks. At least two cars and three stores were damaged, police said.
This behavior, particularly the volleyball incident raises a number of questions. First, just what was anyone doing at a professional women's volleyball match? Here in the US we couldn't get a pro women's soccer league to survive, and the WNBA surely wouldn't without its steadfast support from David Stern and the NBA. How does this women's league survive in Greece? Secondly, if one man and seven others were injured in the riot, does that mean there were only eight people at the match? Who goes to such things? Go to the beach!
Another question, which HAK brings to my attention: why is it that fans in other countries go so insane? Something similar happened in Italy in February, where a policeman was killed, and this sort of incident seems to be commonplace. It seems to happen everywhere except the US and Canada? What's the deal - both with us, and with them?
The take home message is this: when you're in Greece for vacation, maybe think twice before taking part in a game of beach volleyball...