As I walk along the streets in the northern suburbs of Athens there is graffiti calling to me and drawing me in.
The 13 in this picture refers to Gate 13 the Panithanaikos supporters union founded in 1966. Gate 13 is also where hardcore fans met outside the stadium for games and is the entry point for the “cheap seats” when watching a Panathinaikos FC game.
Sport for me is the emotion of supporting your team through the highs and lows. Generally more lows than highs in the case of the teams I follow.
Before I came to Athens I looked at the football clubs I could support.
Olympiacos – the most successful club in Greek football but over on the other side of Athens in Pireaus so that counted against them. Also as mentioned I don’t support teams because they are consistently successful. I have to feel an affinity.
AEK – had a lot of appeal because their colours are black and gold (also the colours of the mighty Balmain Tigers) and they were founded by immigrants from Turkey.
Panithanaikos – my local team, the stadium is in walking distance, founded in 1908 (as were the Tigers) their ground is run down, lots of atmosphere with supporters almost on top of players (sounds like Leichhardt Oval).
In the end I think the artists of Athens made the choice for me.
The passion of fans at Panathinaikos FC games particularly when it is a local derby has led to bans and games being played in empty stadiums with fans “locked out.”
I haven’t been to a game yet but I am looking forward to a wild and exciting experience with lots of noise, colour and quality Greek football. “Take a crash helmet” is advice I have been given.
Cheers and Giassas