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Soccer Fails To Give Greeks Much-Needed Boost


The soccer game - they call it football - between Greece in Germany in Poland yesterday was always about more than just sport. Of course, there's friction between these two countries because of that eurozone crisis and both sides said they'd try to set aside politics for the day just to enjoy the entertainment. Now, of course, as has been widely reported, Germany won the game. They head to the semi-finals of the European championship. NPR's Philip Reeves was there and he sends us this account of an unusual day.


PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: For once, Greeks are dancing in the streets. They gathered for what they call the big game in the middle of Gdansk, defiantly parading the blue and white Greek colors on their face, on the huge flags they're wearing like capes. Germans are here, too, in force. The pubs and beer halls are packed. Accountant George Kakoulidis has come from Greece with some old school friends just to see the game.

He believes beating Germany would give his shattered country a much-needed boost.

GEORGE KAKOULIDIS: I would like to win the Greek national team for one reason, just one reason. Everybody in Greece will be very proud, will be very more productive. They are much, much stronger than us, but we can do it.

REEVES: George Stouppass says he and his fellow Greeks are looking forward to a glimpse of Germany's leader the Greeks generally blame for much of their economic misery.

GEORGE STOUPPASS: Angela Merkel tonight will be here. They will take a message. Never die. There is never die.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I can assure you it's made us a lot of more to the Germans to win. It's mandatory to win today.

REEVES: Mandatory to win?


REEVES: Germany fan, Martin Kapolczak, says the Germans have a joke. They say Germany's provided Greece with so much bailout money, the Greeks should have a German logo on their soccer shirts.

MARTIN KAPOLCZAK: Since we are the proudest sponsors of Greece, I think we will win the game because we have the money.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: And we got to hope we can put the politics aside for 90 minutes and concentrate on the football. We got this powerful...


REEVES: Kickoff approaches. Angela Merkel is caught on camera and appears on the stadium's giant screens. Greek fans boo. But Greek dreams of giving a symbolic bloody nose to Mrs. Merkel don't last long.


REEVES: In the end, the Greeks are soundly beaten, 4-2.


REEVES: Back in the center of Gdansk, beers are flowing swiftly again as the Germans celebrate. Greek fan, Elizabeth Safaridis, admits her side was outclassed.

ELIZABETH SAFARIDIS: Germany maybe was better. I thought that the Greeks would won. Germany maybe was better.

REEVES: Safaridis is with her brother, Karis. I ask him if this defeat is harder to take for Greeks because it's Germany.

KARIS SAFARIDIS: What can I say? I don't think politics and sports should be in the same discussion.

REEVES: But they are. I mean, Angela Merkel is...

SAFARIDIS: I know. Like I say, I don't like Merkel, Angela Merkel.

REEVES: The crowd booed her.

SAFARIDIS: Yeah, we don't like her. She's not human.

REEVES: Did you boo her, too?

SAFARIDIS: Yeah. When you see her in TV, on the big screen, you don't - you have to boo her.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Gdansk. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.