The Katidis Story: A Lesson We Must Never Forget

Some of my readers may question the relevance of the present post to the general theme of this blog. They may even question the slightly dramatic title to this post. The words 'lesson' and 'never forget' may appear to cause a certain degree of surprise. But I am convinced that at the end of this post, my readers will be satisfied that these were terms well chosen.

The Giorgos Katidis incident does not only relate to sports law [brief facts could be accessed here: ]. It does not only focus on issues of regulation and those of disciplinary measures, within the regulatory framework of the Hellenic Football Federation. The Giorgos Katidis story has several ramifications within the wider spectrum of the modern Hellenic society. A society which trembles with severe economic and political tremors and which remembers only too well the nightmares of its recent past.

Greece saw an economic boost in the 80s and 90s, which transformed this western democracy on many levels. Despite this transformation, Greeks remained attached to their history, which passes on from generation to generation and serves as a catalyst of what this nation is made of. Greeks believe that strong links with the past, will help them build a better future. They are people who forgive easily, but never forget how valuable history could be. Such history, which is taught extensively at schools, is unique and comprehensive.

Given the enormous attention Greeks pay to history, the Katidis story raises several concerns as to the lack of guidance and appropriate leadership shown to young people. I am not here to pass judgement on this young footballer. I am more interested in those who failed in their duty towards this young man. This is not only about football and football is not only about kicking a ball.

Map of Thessaloniki in Central Macedonia
Katidis was born in the same city as I. Thessaloniki [or Salonica] is the second largest city in Greece and one of the most historical places in the country. It is situated in the heart of central Macedonia and only 30 minutes away from the county of Pella, the birth place of Alexander the Great. Thessaloniki is of immense historical and cultural importance to Greece and the world. A city with a port that connects two continents and offers access to the Mediterranean Sea and northern and western Europe. It is also a city that has suffered enormous atrocities, during many centuries, by those who set foot on its land.

The Nazis occupied Thessaloniki in 1941, after severe battles with the Greek and British forces [following Mussolini's failure to capture the Greek soil, earlier in 1940-1941]. They immediately persecuted Greeks and the large Jewish community of the city. In 1943, they forced the Jewish population into a ghetto, near the rail lines. This ghetto became one of the major destinations to concentration camps in Poland and most of the 60000 Jewish people deported, never returned home. The barb wire near the rail lines remains intact to the present day, a testament to the horrors this blessed and sacred land endured.

Registration of Jews
The city is full of monuments reminding the younger generation of the past. Villages around the city and in the neighbouring counties have many more monuments. Every square of every village has a monument reminding people of the atrocities of the Nazis. I remember all the stories my grandfather told me, in my relatively short stay in Greece. My grandfather, whose name I take, was a captain of the Greek army and a teacher who would describe the Nazi atrocities in the most graphic but penetrating and unforgettable way. For every German soldier killed, 50 men would be executed. Several women would be raped. Many houses would be burnt down to pure ashes. For those who experienced such atrocities, the trauma is simply too big to be forgotten and ignored, even after 60 years. It passes on from generation to generation and serves as an important reminder that evil must be resisted at all costs.

Outside Thessaloniki - 1943
Despite all these reminders, Katidis insulted greatly all those who are still affected by the Nazis' atrocities during the Second World War. But let's forgive Katidis and give him the benefit of the doubt. During his testimony yesterday, at the disciplinary hearing, he claimed that he had heard of Adolf Hitler but not of the Nazis. It is not important whether this is true. The analysis above may indicate that Katidis did not go to school, or he has been housebound until recently. Whatever the truth state of affairs is, Katidis should not be persecuted. Responsibility must be placed elsewhere.

Katidis may be the product of a society that moves towards disintegration. He may come from a broken home, without the necessary guidance. But I must question the Greek educators' lack of responsibility. Why did they let him down so badly? Why are they allowing young people to become ignorant of such important historical elements? Why are they failing young people towards the most sacred and valuable tool, which is of course the tool of education?

Most importantly, where is the duty of care owed to Katidis by his club and the sporting authorities in Greece? This young and promising footballer [whom Everton FC offered a three-day trial] has been carrying the Hellenic emblem on his shirt, as the captain of the under -19 national team. Why is this football player so ignorant of the importance and history such emblem carries with it? Where is the education that needs to be instilled into football?

'Never Again'. Thessaloniki

Sports Law could play an important role in this area of football. All stakeholders must produce more efforts and ensure that these young footballers who attract so much media attention, also have an enormous responsibility to discharge and are able to discharge it at any given time.

Katidis must not become the scape-goat for our incompetence and inability to educate our children. Katidis must become the raison d'etre of the importance of history and its connection with the future. This is a lesson we must never forget...

Dr Gregory Ioannidis
29 March 2013


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