Peaceful Protest: Let Greece Play
12 June 2019 - Written by Stuart McLennan
Greek Rugby League Association (GRLA) President George Stilianos talks to Everything Rugby League in the aftermath of a peaceful protest to the Greece Minister of Sports in Athens. The aim of the protest was to allow Greece to play their home World Cup qualifying tie against Scotland in Athens unhindered.
At the present moment Greece will not be able to play their ‘home’ game with Scotland in Athens. This is because the Greek Rugby League Association is not recognised as the official RL authority by the government.
The Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon (currently the federation that looks after rugby league) is fronted by Anastasios Pantazidis who was head of the Greek rugby league federation when it was suspended and eventually expelled from the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) for ‘governance issues’.
The vast majority of Greek rugby league players are participants in the GRLA competition. The GRLA are the federation endorsed by the RLEF and the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF).
The protest outside the Minister of Sports office in Athens follows the #LetGreecePlay social media campaign that has been embraced by the rugby league community around the world.
Everything Rugby League (ERL) - How important is it for the Greek rugby league community and the people of Greece to play the World Cup qualifier against Scotland in Athens?
George Stilianos (GS) - “Hugely important. To play against a high-profile nation like Scotland on home soil, would give us a great opportunity to get a big crowd and showcase the sport to people who are maybe watching for the first time. It is certain to be a top quality match and I am sure everyone who watches will like what they see and come back for more! We will do everything we can to promote this match, if we are allowed to play in Athens and I am confident we will get a big crowd too!”
ERL - Were you happy with the turnout for the protest today?
GS - “Considering it was at 11am on a weekday and in the outer suburbs of Athens, yes, I am quite satisfied and I thank each and every person who made the effort to come along today.”
ERL - What did you want to achieve from the protest today?
GS - “Essentially nothing, as the key politicians were not in their office today. We initially set the date a few weeks ago, then, days after, the government called snap elections. So the country is now in election campaign mode, so we knew there was a risk of this happening today, but since we had set the date, we decided to stick with it.”
ERL - But is there any progress with the Greek Government after the activities today?
GS - We are in contact with them and we will continue to push for written assurances regarding the Greece vs Scotland match. We are aiming to have this from both major political parties: Syriza and Nea Dimokratia.
ERL - What would you like to say to the Greek Sports Minister if given the chance?
GS - “#LetGreecePlay!!! I would just like to show her how much progress we've made domestically and internationally despite all the obstacles thrown in our way. We have a rare opportunity and want to represent Greece on the world stage, so please, let us do just that! We are not seeking any special treatment, we just want the hostilities (that we've been dealing with since 2015) to end once and for all!”