Christian Karembeu, since arriving at Olympiacos Greek football club, has come to know and love Greece. He has been delighted to discover first-hand just how popular football is in Greece.
Karembeu talks about Greek Football and Greece
Karembeu said about his memories from the football seasons in Greece:
“I will remember it as a very beautiful country with superb beaches and wonderful islands and also that the Greeks are warm people who really know what life is about.”
“After living in France, Spain, Italy, and England, I can now say my knowledge of Greece is finally based on first-hand experience rather than memories of history lessons. The history of Greece is, of course, a proud one, since Greek civilisation dominated the world for a long time. The hard proof of that is still very much in evidence and every day I can gaze at the Acropolis, Cape Sounion, museums, archaeological digs and so on. This history forms the backdrop to everyday Greek life, but the country is now also looking confidently to the future and is catching up on other European countries. The replacement of the drachma by the euro was another step forward in this process; with a new currency and a new political landscape, Greece is well and truly modern. And the Olympic Games will help open the country up to the world still further.”
Karembeu said about him carrying the Olympic Torch:
That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Olympic flame is sacred, eternal. It is what drives the athletes, the symbol of their dreams. I was deeply touched to have been given that honour.
Karembeu said about the Greek football stadiums:
The atmosphere in Greek stadiums is always passionate. It will of course have a slightly different tone in the Olympics because it is not domestic club football but internationals. But the Greeks are mad about football, they are fanatics in the purest sense of the word: they love football and shout loud and hard, sometimes maybe a little too much. The recently-built or renovated stadiums are superb. Karaiskaki Stadium is now one of the best in Europe, as is the Olympic Stadium. The one in Patras is also a wonderful arena. The organisers have worked tirelessly and the fruits of their labours are very impressive.
Karembeu said about the victory of Greece in Euro 2004:
Greek football came of age with that victory. The confidence and experience gained from that triumph, coupled with brand-new structures, means they are capable of surpassing themselves yet again. Some of my former team-mates from Olympiacos will be playing, such as the captain Ieroklis Stoltidis, goalkepper Kleopas Giannou, sweeper Spyridon Vallas and midfielder Ioannis Taralidis. With home advantage and the example set by the senior team, expectations for Greece are very high. I saw them in a friendly against Japan and they looked in great shape and intent on emulating their big brothers. After the win in Portugal, millions of people poured into the street in Greece and the triumphant players were welcomed home in the old Olympic Stadium.
Karembeu said about the vistory of Greece in Portugal:
I was not really surprised by the victory of Greece in Portugal. For a start, the Greek team were under-estimated by their opponents even though most of the Greek players play in the continent’s biggest leagues. What’s more, the standard of the Greek Super league is much higher than people generally realise. Some people complained that Greece used an old-school man-marking system, but all Otto Rehhagel did was get his players to focus on doing their jobs in a simple and effective way. Everyone should pay tribute to a unit that was so solid that no one individual could be singled out for special praise.
Karembeu said about the Greek football players:
Angelos Charisteas used to play at Iraklis before heading to Werder Bremen and I remember being assigned to mark him back then. I can testify to the fact that going to Germany has improved his all-round play. The same can be said of guys like Zisis Vryzas in Fiorentina and Traianos Dellas in AS Roma. Playing abroad has enabled them to add an extra dimension to their game.