Euros Heroes: Angelos Charisteas
Name a famous Greek? Archimedes? Plato? Alexander the Great? Socrates? He was Brazilian, wasn’t he?
What about modern famous Greeks? Nana Mouskouri? George Michael? That trendy finance minister guy?
How about Angelos Charisteas?
Well, the strapping Greek, all 6 feet 3 of him, has likely never had to buy a pint of Mythos since 2004. In probably the biggest shock there has ever been, or ever will be, in the European Championships Greece won the 2004 competition, beating a young Ronaldo’s Portugal in the final, and Charisteas popped up with the one and only goal of the game.
Greece had started the tournament as fourth seeds, alongside Bulgaria, Switzerland and Latvia, drawn in a group alongside Portugal, Spain and Russia they weren’t given much chance of getting beyond the group stage but they book-ended the tournament — causing a huge upset in the opener by defeating hosts Portugal 2–1 meaning that Euro 2004 was the only Euros ever to have the same game for the opener and the final. They drew with Spain but then lost to Russia and went through in second position.
The Greeks were well defensively drilled by their German coach Otto Rehhagel and progressed through the knockouts 1–0 (against France, Czech Republic and finally Portugal).
They were labelled boring but the people of Greece will never forget these heroes and it goes to show that we shouldn’t write off any of the teams in this Round of 16. Not Austria, not Denmark, not Wales … not England.
What glory comes in winning? In the words of Charisteas: “Even in 50 years time, everybody will remember that I scored the goal which made Greece the champions of Europe. We wrote history and my life changed completely at that point.” But I prefer the words of coach Rehhagel “When I walk around people salute me and now I must be the only person allowed to drive in the bus lanes.”
Rehhagel is 82 now and I can just imagine him trundling along in an Athens bus lane as patient Greek drivers (a trait they are so well-known for) sigh and bide their time.