After years of oppression and having their gamers arrested by police, Greeks are lastly free to play rugby league.
In a serious increase for the code main as much as the World Cup, the Greek authorities has lifted a ban on taking part in league and formally recognised it as a sport in its personal proper.
A lot of the thanks for the landmark choice goes to a Sydney journalist and league tragic, Terry Liberopoulos.
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Liberopoulos, who pays his personal means from Sydney to Greece at the least yearly to maintain the sport alive, takes up the story of how the drama started and at last ended.
“We began a small native competitors in Greece again in 2002,” he mentioned.
“Then in 2012, we shaped a proper home competitors with 5 groups.
“However there have been issues with one of many groups, Rhodes Knights – there have been discrepancies of their accounts and the opposite 4 groups signed a vote of no confidence of their president.
“The groups shaped their very own insurgent breakaway league however have been barred from taking part in as a result of underneath Greek regulation, you want at the least 20 golf equipment to be classed as a federation sport.”
Rhodes shaped their very own federation, placing it underneath fashionable pentathlon to get the required variety of groups.
“We utilized to the European Federation they usually accepted us, however the Greek authorities did not,” he mentioned.
“We could not promote or promote our video games and needed to play them in secret.
“Greater than as soon as the police would raid the grounds we have been taking part in at, cease the video games and take us all to the police station.
“We performed a World Cup qualifier in opposition to Malta in 2018 and I obtained on a bus for seven hours to a regional city, took a photograph of myself and posted it on Fb with the caption ‘pitch inspection’.
“It was a decoy to throw the cops off and it labored.
“However we nonetheless needed to be cautious – we did not let Malta know the place the sport was and solely instructed their bus driver on the final minute the place to take the group.
“That’s the form of subterfuge we had to make use of – it was ridiculous.
“However final week, the Greek authorities lastly formally recognised The Greek Rugby League Affiliation, a lot to the enjoyment of gamers and officers.
The nation has already certified for the World Cup later this yr and may now play underneath the nationwide flag.
“It’s a proud day for the Greek sport,” Liberopoulos mentioned.
“We could not have completed it with out the help of (Roosters chairman) Nick Politis who has donated round $100,000 to fund the group.
“We are actually forming a girls’s competitors and making an attempt to get the sport performed in faculties – we’re rising the sport.”
Included within the Greek group for the World Cup will likely be a number of NRL gamers, together with Souths half Lachlan Ilias and Cronulla utility Billy Magoulias.
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