The Greeks are preparing to face Germany in the quarterfinals of the European Championship, and their fans are already chanting slogans about German chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of Friday's politically charged match in Gdansk.
"You cannot compare football and politics, it's as simple as that. It's a game," Celtic striker Georgios Samaras said Tuesday. "We'll play. We enjoy it because we love it, nothing else.
"We've reached our target to make the quarterfinals. And from now on, we don't care who we play. We just want to enjoy it. If we get through, that would be a dream."
The match follows a weekend general election in Greece, dominated by the financial crisis and harsh austerity measures imposed by Germany and other eurozone rescue lenders. But after players were repeatedly asked about the financial crisis and tension with Germany, Greek football federation spokesman Michalis Tsapidis intervened.
"If you want to write a different story (other) than football, you can write whatever you like," Tsapidis said. "But please don't ask the players about this."
Regardless, the topic of politics on the field won't quashed so easily. And Samaras added to the theme.
"We're not playing for ourselves. We play for the country, for 11 million people, who are waiting for a smile," Samaras said. "They went out on the streets to celebrate when we beat Russia. And we're really, really happy about that."
Although Greece struggled at the beginning of both its early matches, the team beat the Russians 1-0 Saturday to finish second in Group A and set up a meeting with the ever-fancied Germans.
Luckily for Greece coach Fernando Santos, key members of his underdog team have spent time playing in the Bundesliga.
Three members of the current team currently play in Germany, three others used to, and another two grew up in the country. Besides that, Greece reached its ultimate footballing achievement — victory at Euro 2004 — while being coached by a German, Otto Rehhagel.
"Of course that's an advantage because we know who our opponents are," said Kyriakos Papadopoulos, a 20-year-old Schalke defender who has emerged as a breakout player for the Greeks.
"Obviously this is special for me, because I play in Germany. I know the players we will be facing and have played against them many times," Papadopoulos added. "We are studying them. But I won't tell you tactics we'll follow, whether it'll be offensive or defensive. You'll see on the field."Suggest a correction