Greece to protest to government about national team game ban

Sebastian Sternik

The Greek Rugby League Association is preparing to hold a protest this Tuesday outside of the country’s sports ministry, as they look to iron out their domestic issues ahead of the upcoming Word Cup qualifiers.

Greece currently find themselves two games away from a potential spot in the 2021 World Cup. That’s after they claimed a comprehensive 56-26 win over Norway last May.

However, despite their on-field success, it is still the political turmoil that keeps on driving the headlines.

The country has been drawn in Pool B of the European qualifiers and face upcoming games against Scotland and Russia. Both fixtures are scheduled to take place in November with the top two sides in the group going on to the 2021 tournament.  

As things stand, Greece will not be able play their ‘home’ tie with Scotland at home. This is because the Greek Rugby League Association is not recognised as the official RL authority by the government.

That position is currently held by the Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon – fronted by Anastasios Pantazidis.

Speaking about Tuesday’s protest the President of the Greek RL Association, George Stilianos, said: “We need the people here and the government to wake up and realise the importance of this. We’re trying to go to a World Cup and represent Greece. Greece itself is going to be the one trying to stop us – it’s insanity if you think about it.”

There were slight doubts whether the protest would go ahead due to an upcoming snap election in the country. Nevertheless, Stilianos has confirmed everything will move as planned.

He said: “It is still going to go ahead, we’ve invited some media to come down. We really don’t know how many people will come. It could be from a dozen to a hundred people. It’s during working hours so it’s hard for some of our people to get there.

“Since we set the date we decided to stick with it. Plus, time is of the essence as we need to get it sorted soon before our matches at the end of the year.”

When asked whether there has been any contact with the sports minister Lydia Koniordou, the President of the association responded by saying: “We haven’t but I’m hoping that on Tuesday that we will. We’ve spoken to a lower ranking person in the ministry which, he was very good. It didn’t get us anywhere but at least he heard us.

“There has been progress on the media front. We never used to get much media attention in Greece and we’re still low profile minority sport but, since the Norway match and the #LetGreecePlay campaign, a lot of very big sporting websites and newspaper have run our stories.

“It’s only a start but we need that to be coupled with action by the politicians. It’s a good start but there hasn’t been any solid progress.”

Stilianos added that there is a plan ‘B’ should they not be able to play that Scotland game at home. He said: “If we’re unsuccessful, we’re going to have the Scotland match in London at the New River Stadium again. It’s not ideal but it’s a good plan B to have.”