It did not take long for Greece’s victory over Russia and qualification of the Euro2012 soccer championships on Saturday night to become a political issue. Moments after the game, Greece coach Fernando Santos, who is from Portugal, was asked where comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel about Greece needing to stick with austerity helped inspire his players ahead of the game.
The question produced a response from Santos that earned him plaudits from presenters on Greece’s state-run ET-1 channel and prompted numerous comments on social networks referring to the Portuguese as being “more Greek than the Greeks”.
“We are inspired by the history of Greece,” Santos told the Irish journalist who asked the question. “The Greek people have great pride in their history and this deserves people’s respect. Civilization, democracy and the sciences started in Greece. It is difficult for others to give us lessons.”
Greece’s shock result against the Russians in Warsaw also prompted the leaders of New Democracy and SYRIZA, which are competing for first place in Sunday’s elections to issue brief statements.
“You made us proud again,” said ND’s Antonis Samaras in a telegram to the players. “During these difficult times, you gave Greeks hope.”
“Congratulations to the players for today’s big win,” said SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras on Twitter. “Tomorrow, it’s the people’s turn. They will have their own struggle (game). Tomorrow, hope will beat fear.”
A number of Greece’s international players made reference to the crisis and the elections in their post-match comments, with most dedicating the win to Greeks suffering from the dire economic conditions.