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Greek tragedy unfolds at Euro 2004

2004 June 30
by Skip Sauer

On the eve of the biggest football game Greece has ever played, their players have threatened to strike.

The Greece national team were on the brink of chaos last night as their players threatened to strike over a wages dispute that has cast a long shadow over their semi-final against the Czech Republic. As Greece prepares for its greatest achievement in almost 80 years of international football, the financial collapse of top club side AEK Athens has further unsettled Otto Rehhagel’s players.

…The rift centres on a €100,000 bonus that has been promised to each player for reaching the semi-finals. The players are now demanding that they should be paid €300,000 each from the €10.3 million pot of prize money that has been given by UEFA to the federation.

…the former Werder Bremen manager will also have to take into consideration the spectacular collapse of AEK Athens who have five players in his squad. Perhaps more staggering is that Rehhagel’s striker Demis Nikolaidis, who plays for Atletico Madrid, is AEK Athens’ majority shareholder.

The club’s national team players – Michalis Kapsis, Costas Katsouranis, Vassilis Lakis, Vassilis Tsartas and Zagorakis – all face the termination of their contracts and their club could be relegated to amateur status. The club owes almost €100 million to creditors and the Greek government has rejected a proposal to write off 95 per cent of AEK Athens’s debts.

The Greeks’ problems were not confined to money after Rehhagel clashed with journalists over allegations that he has alienated his players.

This saga is so strange it must be true! Let’s hope it doesn’t presage a bout of brinkmanship before the Olympics.

In Wednesday’s semi-final, Portugal looked sharp in their 2-1 victory over Holland. A Portugal-Czech Republic final on Sunday should be a treat to watch.

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