During the 2004 summer, my home country, Greece had the privilege to be the protagonist in two extremely important and prestigious events in the nation’s sports history; the EURO 2004 Soccer Championship and the 2004 Olympic Games.
In the EURO 2004 Soccer Championship, the National Soccer Team of Greece gained the title as the new European Soccer Championship and by hosting successfully the 2004 Olympic Games, has proven to the world that it can surpass even the wildest expectations of its critics.
When Theodore’s Zagorakis, the Greek national soccer team captain, lifted the Cup of the EURO 2004 Championship, every Greek, all over the world, felt proud to belong to this nation. It is difficult to describe the overwhelming feeling everyone felt that night when the Greek soccer team managed to defeat the national Portuguese soccer team in their homeland, at the national stadium in Lisbon, with a single goal.
That hot summer evening, every Greek, man or woman, child or elder, was viewing the most anticipated game in the Greek sports history. The strong heartbeat everyone felt that night was one of the most important moments in every Greek’s life.
Soccer is still the beloved sport of Greece and with this unexpected result soccer has managed to overcome social obstacles of age, politics and gender, shaping a new game identity. Nothing similar has ever happened to Greeks. Nothing as powerful, as that single scream of joy, has ever in the contemporary Greek sports history, united so dynamically this nation.
For days after this accomplishment, Greeks were still unable to believe the outcome of their national soccer team’s efforts and everyone felt the need to celebrate again and again their enormous success.
For many critics, extremely important, if not more than the players’ efforts, was the presence of Mr. Otto Rehhagel, the German coach of the Greek national soccer team, who managed to become the most familiar and friendly face in the Greek public surpassing the fame and status of all of his Greek soccer colleagues. His management style, his personality and his persistence, became a new national anthem for Greeks, who have made his profile the modern icon for an ancient Greek god.
In this particular meaningful sport event, every Greek felt like their support was projected in the field and their presence felt by the players, influencing every result in the series of the games played, reaching its peak during the final.
From the known myths of sports, the 12th man was the classic illusion that promoted the spectators’ wishing, screaming and cheering. The eleven contemporary heroes of the Greek national soccer team extended Greece’s political culture to its undiscovered limits and cultivated the public’s’.
Belief in the ‘hidden star-quality’ that could illuminate once again everyone’s life, as long as opportunity evolves and timing is right. These eleven stars, won a distinct place in the hearts of every Greek, transforming themselves to role models, resembling to the fame and prestige of ancient warriors.
From the battlefields of this European Soccer Championship, this team’s perseverance, effort and consistency, played the most crucial role in the turnout. Thus, the Greeks will value every minute of those athletes’ accomplishment, in many years to come.