Police raids, house arrests, heavy fines: Why footy games are being played in the middle of the night in Greece

BY CURTIS WOODWARD
@woodward_curtis

The year 2019 is the most inclusive time the human race has ever known. It is a beautiful place we live. You can be short, black, fat, gay, purple or transgender and it really doesn’t matter.

Good on you and good on the inhabitants of this here Earth on accepting so many from so many different backgrounds.

Can you believe it?

We’ve had black presidents and female prime ministers but what about something as simple as playing rugby league in Greece?

Nah, forget it.

Yeah, okay so we can kind of get our heads around Nazis undermining rugby league in France back in the day (Google it – it’s real).

Harder still to compute the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee blatantly ignoring rugby league and refusing to officially acknowledge the game.

Okay, so they’re stories for another time.

But let’s talk Greece.

The country that has given us some of the best food we’ll ever eat at 2am (if you haven’t tried the gyros at Yianni’s in Adelaide you haven’t lived) is trying to tell us that we can’t play rugby league.

That’s right – we can’t play footy in Greece.

Rugby league teams in Greece are being forced to play secret matches in the middle of the night. And even then, they could be thrown in jail by police if they are found playing.

What the actual Michael Luck?

Freelance journalist Stuart McLennan, who also doubles as head coach of the Aris Eagles, has pleaded with government officials.

”This is about allowing guys in Greece to play the game they love,” McLennan told the81stminute.com.

”Sport should not be about power and greed. The Greek government should understand that and allow the important games for the nation to go ahead.”

Imagine Super League in Australia but the breakaway ‘rebel’ competition were the good guys.

Let’s go back to 2015 and Greek rugby league is in total chaos.

The game was being run by the Hellenic Rugby League Federation. Three clubs formed a breakaway organisation called the Greek Rugby League Association as a protest to the way they percieved their sport was being governed after ”allegations of financial indiscretions”.

Up steps the Rugby League European Federation who investigate the claims against the HRLF.

The ’rebel’ GRLA are banned from playing on anything resembling a football field and are forced one night to play a game between Attica and Rhodes that finishes just before 2am.

Before long, the Rugby League International Federation get involved with RLIF CEO David Collier flying to Greece. He attends a GRLA game while two HRLF matches are cancelled.

The RLEF votes 33-1 to suspend the HFRL for “wilfully acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the RLEF and international rugby league”.

Furious at the decision, HFRL boss Anastasios Pantazidis hands players decade-long suspensions and fines totaling in the thousands. Pantazidis then becomes the president of the Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon.

HFRL is officially expelled by the RLIF as the GRLA’s application as a legal entity is approved by Greek courts.

The GRLA told the Everything Rugby League website that after Pantazidis took the GRLA to court he ”urged the court to warn participants of a one-year of house arrest and fines of €100,000.”

GRLA won again.

If you’re not already shaking your head – keep reading.

Venues are threatened with legal action if they host GRLA games.

A match between Attica and Radnicki was stopped with ten metres to play by cops with club officials taken to the local police station.

But the craziness didn’t stop there.

Players were kept in the dark about match details for the World Cup qualifier between Greece and Malta until the very last second. If they didn’t know, how could the police know? And so the teams secretly boarded buses and were driven to an unknown location. Greece ended up winning 60-4.

The players have also been told not to upload photos or results of games played online due to fears of legal action.

Incredibly, Greece play Scotland and then Russia in November for a spot at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup. Officials have their fingers crossed they’ll be able to play the matches on home soil.

What an inclusive world we live.

As long as you’re not trying to play rugby league in Greece.

@woodward_curtis

You can help by using the hashtag on social media #LetGreecePlay

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