I never thought I’d ever see myself writing that about the slippery snake-oil salesman, who has jogged my memory of the original down at the Barra’s in the early 50’s, who came from the Orient and had a name like Ali or Ahmed or maybe Salim. I actually think it was Salim but of course in the custom of the time every lascar seaman got the same name.
It wasn’t intentionally racist I don’t think but more a ‘Hey Jimmy’ universal term but then racism can often have deep and hidden roots and those who intentionally propagate it know the subconscious levers to pull to make the weak gravitate into an orbit of hate.
Salim was a real entrepreneur – a wee thin guy almost dwarfed by all the hustle and bustle going on around him and of course no competition for the Barkers who were only feet away. But he was there week after week come rain, hail or shine wi’ his bloody snake oil :) I wonder if anyone knows how he got on as after I drifted away from the Barras I never saw him again. I haven’t seen or thought of that total stranger for over 50 years and yet the reference used by Leggo about snake oil released a memory enzyme – ain’t the mind a wonderful and wondrous thing.
I kid you not but I avoided Salim like the plague I think because I was frightened of ‘snake oil’ even if I didn’t know what it was for and could never understand why so many women bought it. When I was much older and saw Oil of Ulay (now Olay I believe – although like Viagra I have no need of it Honest!) being sold ‘for aunts in Australia’ it slowly dawned that although a helluva lot more expensive than KY Jelly it was less embarrassing to buy :) Anyone who still hasn’t got it yet pls ask your wife – no maybe that’s not such a good idea :)
No doubt Charlie uses snake oil to lubricate the ever-turning wheels of the investment industry although it used to only come in tiny wee green bottles with a cork bung and I think Charlie would need 50-gallon drums to keep SevcoGers in motion.
So why do I think he isn’t all daft – well his idea for a friendly with Olympiakos is a belter. I know a lot of Bears think, like his trip to Fifa/Uefa, it’s a porky pie but hey, gie the man a break it really is exhausting living oot a suitcase and flitting from safe hoose to safe hoose.
OK I know there’s nothing about a friendly with Rangers showing on the well-organised Olympiakos website where the season ticket link actually takes you somewhere :) OK I know the website lists the pre-season friendlies and there’s no mention of SevcoGers. You could argue that Charlie is getting organised for a trip next summer but Ah’m no sure even Charlie believes that one.
But let’s be optimistic and for the moment look at the stats: Olympiakos, founded in 1925, are currently top of the Greek Superleague and been in their country’s top league for 54 seasons and are one of only four Greek teams never relegated from the 1st Division. Their 39 League titles, 25 Greek Cups and 4 Greek Super Cups won are truly impressive from an 87 year history. It has 2.5 million fans in Greece and was ninth-top in the world for paid-up members in 2006 of 83,000.
OK enough of the stats let’s get to the emotion: Their Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium is named after a national hero from their 1820 War of Independence and started off life as a velodrome in 1895. It was demolished in 2003 and the present stadium built in its place and regarded as one of the most modern in Europe situated in Piraeus, the port of Athens.
Like Ibrox, shipbuilding and maritime connections are important although the current Greek economic recession has taken a heavy toll just like it has in Ibrox and Govan in earlier years. Traditionally club support is seen as representing the traditional working class of the port.
And just like the Old Firm there is a traditional ‘enemy’ in Athens-based Panathinaikos with their matches dubbed: ‘The derby of the eternal enemies’. Funny how the classical touch helps mask the violence and hatred that sometimes breaks out including the death of a Panathinaikos fan in 2007 at, of all things, a women’s volleyball match between the two clubs. Panathinaikos support is drawn from Athenian higher-class society. Anyone who has ever attended their derby leaves deafened and drained with all the noise and emotion apparently – just what any real ‘derby’ provides no matter where in the world it takes place.
But maybe the deepest and most enduring link between Rangers and Olympiakos is the tragedy that has befallen both clubs. We all know what happened at Ibrox and the terrible death toll but perhaps are not familiar with the tragedy of the old Olympiakos stadium where 21 young people died on 8th of February 1981. Ages ranged from 14 to 40 and such was the emotion that 5000 fans joined the bulldozers to demolish Gate 7.
It is the worst tragedy to befall Greek sport and came at the end of a league derby match with AEK Athens which was won 6-0 by Olympiakos. At the final whistle thousands of fans rushed down stair 7 to get to the front of the stadium and celebrate with the players as they left. But the doors were only just ajar and the turnstiles still down which created a potential death-trap with only one person at a time able to get through.
The inevitable happened and someone slipped and fell and there is no need to further describe the scene that followed with not only tragic deaths but many injured left behind with the horrific scenes seared into their memory. It’s hard to contemplate that a game of football could be part of such carnage and hurt.
That’s why I think Green’s suggestion of a friendly is a good one – maybe he doesn’t even know about the Ibrox connection, but that matters not. It could become an annual event swapping on alternate years between Scotland and Greece and why not create a mini-tournament by including Celtic and Panathinaikos to form: ‘The International Derby of Eternal Friends’. I think all profits should be shared equally between the four teams with the proviso that it is spent in youth development or possibly split between the Scottish and Greek Associations for the same purpose.
It’s worth remembering that Saint Andrew is not only the patron saint of Scotland but also of Greece and that the Saltire flag is recognised in both countries as well so I take that as an omen that bodes well for the enterprise.
However, Rangers will need to be back on the road a bit but it could take 2/3 years to get it organised anyway – this isn’t something to be used to grab a quick few bucks. This is a noble endeavour not just to honour the memory of fans gone but to create an environment where Greek and Scottish youngsters can become world class football stars and who knows what friendships can also be built along the way through the beautiful game.
Posted by Ecojon