Find what you love and let it kill you
Along with a credit card-funded summer sojourn to a Greek island coupled with lush, fresh seafood and copious amounts of ouzo, if there’s one other thing that can help escape the everyday reality of the knacked financial climate here in Athens, fill everyone with false hope and get them all misty-eyed and optimistic, it is of course the dawn of a new football season.
And so here we are at the starting line of a new season (hope Alan can at least get the players over that white line at the Etihad), and there are more than enough reasons to be as miserable as a whore on her period.
With a deflating close season behind us with average results and performances, as well as so much to be royally pissed off about from the bonkers decision to bring JFK back to Barrack Road, to the total lack of activity in the transfer market, on the surface it appears that it can only go downhill from here. And let’s face it, it hurts. And it’s not just our pride that suffers as fans, I know good people who actually get headaches and stomach ulcers because of the everyday goings on at SJP. But the same people wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s the deal when you are a supporter. So bring it on I say! Bollocks to it all, it’s time to get optimistic. Why? Stay with me, here. Put simply, so what if all logic points to us having a stinker in 2013/14, so what if the man running our club is a self-absorbed idiot of the highest order – this is not the time to be negative. That is far too easy. We still have a quality first XI, we still have some top players on the payroll who can make things happen. What is needed at the start of the season is a bit of perspective, but most of all unity and passion.
You only get one chance to start the season well so let’s hope Pardew is drilling this into the players (I would prefer some tactical nous and goals from set-pieces but if a war cry in the changing rooms does it then why not?). It’s time to think positive. Cisse won’t get injured, Shola will find the form that will see him hit 30 goals this season, Remy will avoid doing time and hit the ground running, while Cabaye and Tiote will press the reboot button and revert to the original editions of their footballing selves from the 2011/12 season. Finally, Krul will keep out everything thrown at him and Hatem will stay fit and terrorise defences all season long in a Black & White shirt, or halved, or blue, or yellow, or whatever colour as long as it has our crest on it.
Right, don’t know about you but I feel much better after that.
I think too much sun has given me the wobblies this year, either that or it’s the arrival of my first son last month and the sleep deprivation which has followed which is to blame.
Anyway, I’m now entering my ninth year here in the crazy, dirty, ugly, beautiful, intriguing city that is Athens, I am thankfully not one of the 30% of the population unemployed (touch wood) so far and have no intention of leaving unless Kinnear rings me up and asks me to sign for United. Not beyond the realms of possibility with that absolute circus performer involved!
On the Grecian front it seems that I’m the only one actually bothered about the start of the footy season as the summer heat is still at its peak – temperatures are floating around the 33-35 degrees celcius mark – and most of my Athenian mates have taken off on their annual mass August exodos from the city combing the beaches for totty. And who can blame them? That said, the Greek capital really is a joy to behold in August, its usual cramped city streets choking from traffic and population overload instead resemble the set of a post-apocalyptic zombie thriller bereft of both the people and cars, while the gentle buzz of cicadas and the odd fire-fighting helicopter and water plane whizzing around putting out random bushfires are the only noises preventing me from enjoying the silence.
As the Gods would have it, the Greek Super League also kicks off this weekend and it’s a case of same shit different season unfortunately. And I say unfortunately because there’s only one thing worse than seeing a team in Red and White win titles, and that’s a total lack of competition!
Yep, reigning champions Olympiakos had enough time to light a whole box of cigars before picking up their 40th league crown last season with 6 matches to spare. To get an idea of how much of a one-horse race it was the boys from Piraeus finished 13 points ahead of second-place PAOK Salonica (the Newcastle of Greek football – they’re from up north, have a huge following of crazy devoted shirtless fans and play in Black & White so good enough for me), while Panathinaikos were 35 points adrift in sixth – their worst season ever as they failed to qualify for Europe for first time since 1997.
Panathinaikos, like most of the clubs last season, suffered a painful transition into fan ownership, haemorrhaging money and barely being able to pay the tea lady – or frappe lady in this case. Worse still, AEK Athens, Greece’s third biggest club traditionally, were relegated for the first time in their 89-year history, filed for bankruptcy and will restart the club ala Rangers in the third tier this season.
It all means that the Super League threatens to be even less competitive this year, despite an expansion from 16 to 18 teams. Why? Well, Pana are banking on youth players and a few loan signings – including our fella Mehdi Abeid (God help the Greens), AEK are out of it, while PAOK are OK but have bloody Liam Lawrence on their books. Enough said! Oh aye, forget to add that Olympiakos’ sugar daddy owner, the shipping magnate Evangelis Marinakis, has shelled out several million euros bringing in a clutch of new players with Javier Saviola leading the pack! The little Argie is now 31 but had a great season with Malaga last year so will be looking forward to seeing him this season – even if it probably means yet another title for Olympiakos.
So things could be worse, you could be a Greek football fan who doesn’t support Olympiakos.
In times like these, apart from finding strength in a bottle or six of broon, there’s always the philosophy of the great American poet and writer Charles Bukowski to follow – which reads even better after downing aforementioned beverages: “Find what it is you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness. Let it kill you and let it devour your remains. For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.”
Howay the lads!
P.S Was quite pleased the mackems’ deal for Panathinaikos’ winger Charis Mavrias fell through. He is one of Greece’s best young talents and deserves better. Come on JFK, get your radar over to Athens, and not just for the souvlaki!