One of my ambitions is to see a local football game in every country I go to.
I almost went to see Valencia’s last home game of the season in May, but didn’t bother in the end. Just as well, they lost 1-0. In Prague and Zagreb it was summer so no football (although I did play some 5-a-side in Prague, but that’s another story).
So I was determined to go to a game in Greece. And when I saw the Olympiacos stadium (Karaiskakis) from the sightseeing bus on our second day, I thought it might as well be them I see.
Luckily I met a fellow Englishman in the co-working space I’m currently in (another Impact Hub). Chris is actually Greek but was raised in London. When I suggested I wanted to go and see a football game, he was well keen. I looked it up and it turned out the next home game was against AEK Athens, so it would be a local derby, and a top-of-the-table clash.
Booking the tickets
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. This turned out to be a bit of user experience nightmare. Read on if you dare.
It went a little like this:
- Google the Olympiacos website.
- Click on the link to buy your ticket online.
- Choose your game. So far so good.
- Now choose a seat. Where do we want to sit? No idea. Just choose somewhere random (note – this turned out to be very important later).
- Choose between picking up from the box office or “Print @Home” and add to basket.
- OK, now I need to create user account. I suppose that makes sense, but it’s a bit annoying.
- Wait, you want to know my ‘Tax Registration ID’, ‘Tax Office’ and ‘AMKA’? What even is that? I’ll leave them blank but no, you definitely want an AMKA and it has to be 11 digits long. OK, I’ll enter 11 zeros.
- Hit submit and be told you’ve not agreed to the terms and conditions. You can see why:
- OK good, now I’m at the checkout. Oh right, you want an ID number? Hopefully passport will do but really, for a football game?
- You also want a Fan Card number? Well I don’t have one, so I’ll just make one up.
- Nope, it turns out you actually have to buy a Fan Card to even buy a ticket for a game. So I click on the link (cunningly disguised as normal text) to take me to a new website to buy a Fan Card.
- Choose the card. 10€ – are you sure?! Wow this is getting expensive.
- Choose “Print @Home” and Add to Cart.
- What? Now I need another User Account for this? Ugh.
- Sign up, checkout and finally I’m able to pay for something. Wait for the email and now I have a Fan Card number.
- Go back to the ticket page. Cannot complete order as the alloted 8 minutes have passed. So I have to go through steps 3, 4 and 5 again, this time it knows who I am so I can proceed straight to step 9.
- Enter the Fan Card number this time, and my passport number (again). They also want an AMK number. Enter all the zeros again (well it worked last time).
- Nope. “User 00000000000 has already bought a ticket for this game”.
- We tried variations of AMK numbers and Fan Card numbers and each time it failed for one of the variation, it resets all the information, so I had to enter names and passport numbers in again and again and again.
- Being Greek, Chris actually speaks Greek. He called the ticket website contact number and asked them what we should do. They say we can enter our passport numbers as AMK numbers. They don’t fit in the box, but somehow it works, finally!
- Pay for the tickets and pray your card is accepted.
- Now we have to print the fan cards and tickets. Connect to the office printer (via a cable) and install 130MB of printer driver.
- Print tickets and fan card numbers.
If you read all of that, you’re a fool (but I love you). It took about 45 minutes in total. And here’s the thing – we took our passports to the game, we had all the information ready, and they DIDN’T CHECK A THING at the stadium. They beeped the barcode on our bits of paper and that was it.
It’s a good thing “mega-patience” is my super power.
Before the game
The game was scheduled for 8.30pm on a Sunday. I’d agreed to meet Chris at a Sports bar so we could watch Spurs vs. Man City first (he’s a Spurs fan). Before I went to meet him, I did a bit of internet research to see what I could find out about the two teams.
This was a bad idea.
You don’t have to look long on Google to find terms like “violence” and “ULTRAS’ and “Gate 7” and “Away fans banned from all games in Greece“, and you’re left feeling a little bit nervous.
I was looking forward to the experience but I was definitely feeling a bit uncomfortable after watching videos of fans lighting flares and fireworks during the game. If we were sat amongst all that, I don’t think I’d enjoy it.
So Chris and I watched Spurs defeat Man City with relative ease, and then grabbed a quick meal before cramming into a Metro train and heading to the stadium. Incidentally, the waiter who served us was an Olympiacos fan and he introduced us to the owner of the restaurant, who was apparently an Exeter City fan!
By the time we arrived, about an hour before kick-off, it was already dark. There were loads of fans outside the ground, and there was a row of food stalls that were wafting out some lush smells. It seemed like a good atmosphere, despite the presence of riot police!
We took a while to find our gate, but once we were in we had a chance to watch the players warm up and I was very (VERY) relieved to see that we were sat about as far away from Gate 7 (where the “Ultra” fans sit) as we could be. That whole side of the stadium, behind the goal, seems to be where the fanatics sit.
Just before kick off, they started lighting flares and literally covered the whole of their side of the stadium in smoke. It was mental. If you were sat there, I don’t know how you could breathe, and with flags and banners everywhere I don’t know how anyone could see a thing. Plus it must have been a massive fire hazard. Ho hum.
The game itself
So as I said, it was set to be an entertaining match, with two good teams. Curiously, there were some ex-Premier League players on show, including Esteban Cambiasso, who left Leicester City the season before they won the league, and Brown Ideye (or “No Ideye”, as I think most West Brom fans would call him). But I was most looking forward to seeing Joleon Lescott, who was one of Everton’s best players for a time, about 8 years ago.
After only 7 minutes, Brown Ideye scored a tap in, and then hit the post shortly after that (clearly he’s found his level). I thought we were in for a rout. But things settled down and to be honest, we got more entertainment from the amazing crowd than we did from the match. The level of passion from supporters is amazing, particularly when the two ends of the crowd chant alternately in a kind of call and answer – it’s deafening and awesome.
I’m just glad I was nowhere near when they started burning the AEK Athens flag. Honestly, you can see why Away fans have been banned. If you put another set of supporters in there with the same level of passion, you’re bound to get trouble. But it’s sad though – not having Away fans does take something away from the atmosphere.
In the second half Olympiacos scored two more goals, the first a good finish from the man of the match (a very tidy looking Portuguese midfielder called André Martins) and the third goal of the game was very harsh, the ball sort of pinged off the attacker and flew past the goalkeeper from outside the area. It was a very lucky goal, ironically scored by Konstantinos Fortounis.
You can watch the highlights, if you like.
Share this Post