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Euro 2008
Puny Wars

Serenity from an Odyssean orbit

It’s the Homeric version of the US-USSR Olympics match on ice at Lake Placid in 1980: Greece and Turkey on a football field, in Greece, in a qualifying game for Euro 2008, the second-biggest football championship after the World Cup. Which answers the question: Does the world keep spinning when the World Cup ends? If you have access to one of those European satellite channels that keep up with the epic sport (and buffer the noise from channels blaring March Madness and other apocryphal excitements), then yes. The world, and one’s head, spin in concert. Yesterday It was all about France undeservedly beating Lithuania 1-0, in Lithuania, and Germany deservedly whipping up the Czechs, 2-1, those Czechs who so ungracefully whipped up the United States in that pitiful world cup game last June 12. (One redeeming thing about that game: it helped bring Ohdave to this web site.) Meanwhile leave it to England, perennial underachiever on the world stage, to leave Tel Aviv with a 0-0 draw with Israel in a group where England is currently being bested by Croatia and Russia.

I’m writing this as the smoke just cleared from the Greek stadium’s celebration of Greece’s first goal in the first 5 minutes of play. Not a complete surprise. Greece after all is the unlikely defending champion. They won Euro 2004, barely beating Portugalin Lisbon, 1-0, in front of 65,000 disbelieving spectators (the six Greeks in attendance hid in an echo chamber from the 1755 Lisbon earthquake). Greece made it that far beating the Czech Republic and France by similar scores. Turkey didn’t qualify. In this match the celebration didn’t last long: Turkey just equalized (27 th minute), triggering a shower of missiles, flares, spit and insults from fans. The Greeks did look like they were flat-lining after that, their goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis, an Alan Arkin look-alike (from afar anyway), especially. Turkey went on to score three more times for the most one-sided thrashing either side ever pulled out. The headline in an Australian sportrszine: “Turkey Roast Greece.”

Greece managed a 3-1 beating of Turkey in 1952 in Greece, returning the favor for a 3-1 thrashing at Turkish feet in Greece four years earlier. But this is as bad as it’s ever been for Greece. On Greek soil to boot, and after two 0-0 draws in two previous games with Turkey. My Izmir friend Burak, who last commented here when I referred to the Armenian genocide at Turkish hands as a genocide (in Turkey it’s considered a migration that produced a few migraines) must be jubilant. It’s not the end of the world for the Greeks, who are only in second place in their group (first two teams advance). They went into the game undefeated (3-0) in their qualifying campaign. They face Norway on Wednesday, and will get to play Turkey again, in Turkey, on October 17. It would be nice of the Greeks are shoved out of the way. I’d rather see more of the Turks. The Greeks play an uninteresting brand of football more similar to the Italian or Irish clampdown than the African or South American all-out attack.

Besides, the Greeks have a little trash to take care of: “Since its only landfill reached saturation a month ago, Athens has been in the grip of a garbage crisis,” the Times reported in February. “Mountains of refuse filled the streets in early January, spilling out of garbage cans and marring the face of one of the world's most fabled cities. As the days wore on and no solution was found, bags were savaged by stray dogs and cats. Pedestrians faced a daily battle to circumnavigate the rot. […]Since the landfill, in Ano Liosia, at the city's northwest, reached capacity the authorities have had to scramble to find a place for the 6,000 tons of trash produced daily in this city of four million. The 250-acre landfill, said by environmental groups to be the largest in Europe , is 520 feet high from partly treated sewage, toxic hospital waste, construction rubble and household trash, besieged by seagulls scavenging for scraps.” Why not contract with Turkey to relieve the rot? Nothing like garbage to nurture a friendship between two old mortal rivals.
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