This is a tale of a fiery strike over pay, physical clashes with riot police, and divisions amongst the workers. All are par for the course with reports about Greece given its current economic troubles but on a Basketball court? Now that’s something different.
A little bit of background
Basketball is rather big in certain parts of Europe, it’s not as popular as Football in most countries (although it’s bigger in Lithuania) but it’s quite a strong second. Greece is a country where it used to be the top sport and is still a particularly strong second. As a result Greece is home to one of the three biggest leagues in Europe, the ESAKE A1 Ethniki.
Financially however big European Basketball clubs are just as stuck for cash as their Football counterparts, many of whom are often part of or related a larger sporting club, and as such tend to fall into financial problems. Such is the case in Greece when the nation’s ongoing international problems have compounded the usual difficulties endured by clubs in keeping pace with one another.
The players union, the Hellenic Professional Basketball Association also known as PSAK, feels the players have been forced to bear too much of the brunt of such matters and are demanding greater rights for their members. To be precise they are demanding:
1. Insurance cover for all professional players.
2. Full medical cover for all professional players.
3. The reopening of the mutual fund.
4. The right to be employed if our current teams do not pay us.
5. Immediate decisions from the Economic Dispute Committees.
6. Setting up the Collective Employment Agreement that was disbanded in 2008.
PSAK voted by 151-24 earlier this month to go on strike indefinitely until those terms were met. Despite the margin of the vote, not all the clubs are on board and this has led to significant divides within the union. Players at Panathinaikos, Olympiacos and AEK Athens, who between them have won every title since 1992, have refused to join the strike. Not having the biggest clubs on board has caused substantial divides within PSAK. Ioannis Bouroussis of Olympiacos and Dimos Dikoudis of AEK Athens, both Greek internationals who won the European title in 2005, have resigned from the union to side with the clubs in this dispute. It’s all sounds fairly standard so far but then things took quite the strange turn.
The show goes on
Despite most of the league’s players being on strike, games are being played but with bizarre rosters. Fans of the NFL may recall tales of the replacement players from the 1987 strike. Well this is a little weirder. On the opening weekend of games PAOK took the floor with just five players available for their home opener against Panathinaikos. The five players comprised all the non-Greeks on PAOK’s roster and were duly manhandled 108-61. Olympiacos enjoyed a comfortable 78-65 victory over as a short-handed Aris . Even match-ups between striking teams proved farcical as Kavala deployed a team manned with six foreigners and four teenagers to beat a similarly understaffed Illisiakos 99-71.
While the Greek players didn’t play on the striking teams many made sure their presence was felt. The riot police showed up at the PAOK game to chase away the players on strike.
To contra.gr sto OAKA
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Matters got more heated at the game between AEK Athens and Ikaros as a group of 20 players gathered in the middle of the court before the start to try and delay the start of the game.
Basket episodeia no2
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The Kavala-Illiakos game was also delayed as players were joined by other striking workers in North Greece to delay the start of the game.
The end could be in sight
Union leader Lazoros Papadopoulos is leaving PAOK as he wishes to stand by the strikers but without bringing any further trouble for his team mates. While Papadopoulos may be taking a stand that will earn him support within PSAK, the union is losing members as the split widens. As it stands the clubs appear to be on course to come out on top in this current battle but it could yet drag on for some time, it really is that unclear. The Hoop is providing regular updates on the dispute and, rather crucially, those updates are in English so you won’t need to rely on Google Translate.