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Otto shows Greece how to get results October 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Ottocracy. In his six years at the helm of the Greek National Soccer Team, Otto Rehhagel has given a master class in what it takes to get the right result and succeed in Greece.

Something amazing happened this week. A 69-year-old German man guided a motley crew of Greek soccer players to the European Championships for the second time in a row against odds that would deter even the boldest gambler.

A country that has a lamentable domestic league, riddled with petty politics and over-inflated egos, with attendances so low that fingers and toes rather than turnstiles suffice to count them, plus a lack of any outstanding players, will be sending a team to Austria and Switzerland next year to defend the European title they won in 2004. And all this because Greece went to Turkey and beat their rivals in Istanbul for the first time in more than 50 years.

“There are no right or wrong, fair or unfair results. There’s just the final score,” Greece coach Otto Rehhagel said a few years ago. On Wednesday night, the final score was all Greece was interested in.

In his six years at the helm of the Greek national team, Rehhagel has given a master class in what it takes to get the right result and succeed in Greece. He has disregarded the opinions of self-styled experts, adopted a clear vision, displayed mental toughness and fostered a loyalty and team spirit among his players that should make Greece’s political leaders deeply envious.

As an outsider, Rehhagel’s journey in Greece has followed a bumpy road. His first game in charge ended in a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Finland. He failed to take the side to the World Cup in Germany last year. And then there was the humiliating 4-1 defeat against Turkey in March. All these moments have been followed by calls for Rehhagel to pack his bags. On a radio phone-in show that I listened to minutes after Greece’s failure to qualify for the World Cup, presenters and callers referred to the man who had until then been “King Otto” as “the German.”

Again, after the thrashing by Turkey earlier this year, the Nation was plunged into crisis over the state of the National Team. The then Deputy Employment Minister Gerasimos Giakoumatos accused Rehhagel of being “paid a lot of money” and just picking “old-aged pensioners” in his team. Giakoumatos is no longer a member of the government. Rehhagel is still manager of Greece.

Perhaps if he had taken on board what people were saying about him, Rehhagel would have left a long time ago. But it would probably take much more for a man who was described as a “rugged enforcer” and a “thuggish defender” during his playing days to give up the fight.

In 1975, Rehhagel was suspended by the German Soccer Federation and fired by Offenbach, the club he was managing, because he was heard instructing his players to scythe down an opponent. It seems unlikely that this is the type of man who would be concerned by criticism. Rehhagel made his name as a coach at German side Werder Bremen in the 1980s. He led the second-division side to the top flight and established total dominance over the small city; a style which became known as “Ottocracy.”

One of his policies was to bring in players who appeared to be passed their best. It is a tactic he has employed with the Greek National Team and has brought him abundant criticism. During his Bremen days, Rehhagel would explain that “there are no old or young players, there are only good or bad players.”

This echoed jazz musician Duke Ellington’s belief that “there are two types of music: good music and the other kind.” Rehhagel has stuck to his tune regardless of the white noise coming from journalists, fans and commentators. His total belief in his way of doing things has ensured that his players are in complete harmony with him.

“When I arrived the players were talented, but did not obey the rules. Once they understood what they needed to, they could then express themselves,” Rehhagel explained after Greece’s historic victory in Euro 2004.

Obeying the rules has given average players the chance to call themselves the best in Europe and to experience the kind of adulation that they could never have dreamt possible. These players’ joy has been even more intense because they achieved their goals as a team. In a country where teamwork is often a dirty word, Rehhagel has made the value of working together abundantly clear.

Rehhagel has repaid his players’ loyalty by turning down the chance to manage the German national side after Greece’s European Championship success in Euro 2004. He also showed loyalty to Werder Bremen, spending a remarkable 14 years as the club’s manager. He left in 1995 and three years later guided Kaiserslautern to an unlikely German championship. Bremen sank without trace and took years to recover from Otto’s departure.

The final score in Rehhagel’s career in Greece has yet to be written but the results are there for all to see.


On our bikes tomorrow October 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cycling.
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ISAP free for cyclists tomorrow

Bicycle riders will be allowed to board trains with their bikes for free on the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) tomorrow so they can take part in the 17th Athens Cycle Tour, which begins at Kotzia Square at 10 a.m. and is being organized by the City of Athens.

The operator of the Athens metro also said yesterday that bicycle stands will be installed outside every metro station, space permitting.

Meanwhile, dozens of cyclists are expected to take part in a protest ride through the city center today. They will start from Alexandras Avenue at noon, head down Vassilissis Sofias Avenue and on to Athens University to demand the construction of more cycle lanes in the city.

Seal rescuer calls for action October 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Nature.
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The Director of a small tourist enterprise on Tinos island, who earlier this month dived off a pier in gale-force winds to save a newborn seal from drowning, yesterday appealed for a concerted campaign to preserve the Mediterranean monk seal, one of the world’s most endangered mammals.

“Authorities should emphasize the importance of protecting the monk seal,” Victoria Drouga said.

Of some 500 monk seals left in the world, around half live off Greek shores but they are endangered by overfishing and pollution.

“If we all become sensitized to this issue, maybe some good can be done,” said Drouga, who on October 1 leaped off a pier at Kolybithra in northern Tinos and rescued a seal pup that had been floundering in the choppy waters. “The sea was so rough that I had problems getting to the seal which was being tossed about by the waves,” Drouga said, noting that winds had reached 9 Beaufort.

Drouga, who jumped into the water fully clothed to get to the seal in time, said she was shocked to see that it still had its umbilical cord attached. According to experts from the Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal (MOM) the pup was just four days old when it was found. MOM officials could not travel to Tinos on the day of the seal’s rescue, due to a ban on ships sailing in bad weather, so they gave Drouga instructions over the telephone to ensure that the pup would survive the next 24 hours.

“They told me not to feed her, to keep her warm and in view of the sea, as her mother might be looking for her,” Drouga said. Sure enough, another seal turned up in the same spot half an hour later but disappeared before it could be caught by Drouga, who dived into the water again. “I thought it might have been another baby,” she said.

The next day, MOM officials arrived and took the pup, which they named Victoria after its rescuer, and are now caring for it at their base on the island of Alonissos. Drouga said MOM workers regularly brief her on the seal’s progress. “They told me that they tried to put her in the water but she didn’t like it,” she said, adding that the seal would be released back into the sea in four months’ time if all goes well.

Green checks set to rise October 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment.
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More environmental inspectors to be hired, government says in defense of record > The number of state environmental inspectors will more than double at the end of the month, the government revealed yesterday as it set about defending its green record, which has been heavily criticized recently.

Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said that the number of inspectors working for the Environment and Public Works Ministry will be increased from 19 to 45 within the next two weeks.

“If someone thinks that an increase of 120 percent is not enough, then that is their point of view,” said the spokesman in response to a question about whether the new number of inspectors will suffice to tackle environmental offences in Greece. The service was set up in 2004 and, according to Antonaros, has so far conducted some 600 checks and has recommended to authorities fines totaling about 10 million euros.

This announcement comes just one day after the Ministry said it was quadrupling the size of fines for polluting firms from 500,000 to 2 million euros.

Antonaros said that inspections around Lake Koroneia near Thessaloniki had already been stepped up. The lake has again become heavily polluted with bacteria that threaten wildlife in the area. Following a similar environmental disaster at Koroneia in 2004, a plan was drawn up to protect the lake but it has yet to be implemented. Antonaros said the government had earmarked 42 million euros for the project and blamed the delay on Thessaloniki Prefecture. He said the local authority signed up technical advisers for the project last month, paving the way for implementation of the scheme.

Meanwhile, Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias continued to court controversy following his decision to allow 100 hectares of land at the site of the old airport at Hellenikon, southern Athens, to be sold to developers to fund the creation and maintenance of a huge Metropolitan Park in the same area. Local Mayors have objected to the plan, saying they do not want any construction to take place but at a meeting with the officials yesterday, Souflias told them he will not revise his plans.

Cyprus overture October 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Occupied, Politics.
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Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos yesterday submitted a proposal to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the aim of reviving stalled peace talks.

The proposal foresees a meeting between President Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat within the next two weeks followed by talks between “working groups” from both sides of the island.

The aim of the talks is to draft a pact based on the agreement reached by community leaders in July 2006, which Turkish Cypriots now dispute. The proposal was dismissed as “verbiage” by Talat who also submitted a proposal to Ban foreseeing the creation of confidence-building measures.

Team walks out of sports competition over name dispute October 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Politics, Sports & Games.
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A 150-member FYROM team walked out of a youth athletics competition in northern Greece on Saturday after objecting to the name used to introduce them, the latest sign of a sharpening bilateral dispute over FYROM’s official name.

Saturday’s walkout follows renewed warnings in the past two days by Greece’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister that Greece will block FYROM’s attempts to join NATO and the European Union unless it compromises over the name issue.

Saturday was the penultimate day of the inaugural Southeastern European Countries Games, a week-long youth competition involving teams from 12 southeastern European countries, including Turkey. The FYROM’s team refused to be introduced as “FYROM”, the acronym for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,  rather than its preferred “Macedonia.”

A published poll on Saturday showed that more than half of Greeks surveyed believe that if FYROM insists on retaining the name “Macedonia”, Greece should veto its NATO and EU bids. The survey, conducted by pollster Metron Analysis and published in the mass-circulation newspaper “Eleftheros Typos,” showed 58.3 percent of respondents urged the veto and said the word Macedonia should not appear in the country’s name. Another 30.2 percent favor a compromise and 6.3 percent say FYROM should be able to call itself what it wants. No margin of error or sample size was given.

Greece has opposed FYROM’s calling itself by that name since the early 1990s, saying it implies territorial designs on the northern Greek Macedonia province of the same name.

Last week, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis threatened to wield the veto in April when FYROM’s bid to join NATO comes up for consideration at a planned alliance summit in Bucharest. Earlier Saturday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told the central committee of his conservative New Democracy Party that the time had come to resolve the longrunning dispute with its northern neighbor.

UPDATE > Greek Prime Minister tells Merkel Greece will block EU, NATO bids if name solution not found

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday impressed upon German Chancellor Angela Merkel Greece’s determination to push for a solution to its dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) regarding the latter’s name before Skopje proceeds with its possible accession to NATO.

“It is inconceivable for FYROM to join NATO or the EU without a mutually acceptable solution to the name dispute,” Karamanlis is reported to have told Merkel on the sidelines of a European Council summit in Lisbon. According to sources, Greece’s PM hinted that Athens would exercise its veto if necessary. Karamanlis was due to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy later yesterday.