Brothels rescue Greek soccer club

2012-10-17 21:48

Larissa - A cash-strapped Greek soccer team has found a new way to pay the bills, with help from the world's oldest profession.

Players are wearing bright pink practice jerseys emblazoned with the logos of the Villa Erotica and Soula's House of History, a pair of pastel-coloured bordellos recruited to sponsor the team after drastic government spending cuts left the country's sports organisations facing ruin.

One team took on a deal with a local funeral home and others have wooed kebab shops, a jam factory, and producers of Greece's trademark feta cheese. But the small amateur Voukefalas club - which includes students, a bartender, waiters and pizza delivery drivers - is getting the most attention for its flamboyant sponsors.

"Unfortunately, amateur football has been abandoned by almost everyone," said Yiannis Batziolas, the club's youthful chair, who runs a travel agency and is the team's reserve goalkeeper. "It's a question of survival".

Prostitution is legal and operates under strict guidelines. Though garish neon signs advertising "studios" are tolerated in Greece, the sponsorship has ruffled some feathers in the soccer-mad central city of Larissa. League organisers have banned the jerseys during games, saying the deal violates "the sporting ideal" and is inappropriate for under-age supporters.

Batziolas acknowledges his team was taken by surprise. "They didn't believe it in the beginning," he said. "But when they saw the shirts printed, they thought it was funny."

Near-bankrupt Greece is struggling to meet creditors' relentless demands to slash expenses and keep the euro as its currency. As Greece heads toward a sixth year of recession, drastic budget cutbacks have hammered many ordinary people: Retirees are left to cover their own medical expenses, children are losing their school bus services - and sports teams are scrambling for sponsors as businesses close under the burden of emergency taxes.

Soula Alevridou, the brothel owner and the team's new benefactor, has already paid more than €1 000 for players to wear her jerseys. The team is appealing the game ban, but it's no big worry for the 67-year-old grandmother and businesswoman, who says she's only in it for the love of the game.

"It's not the kind of business that needs promotion. It's a word-of-mouth thing," she said, dressed in white from head to toe and flanked by two young women in dark leggings, at a recent morning game. Her businesses, plushly decorated bungalows where 14 women are employed, are weathering the country's financial disaster far better than most, and she readily acknowledges her success.

The love of it

"If we don't help our scientists and athletes, where will we be?," she asked. "Greece has educated people, cultured people and good athletes. It's better to help them than take our money to Switzerland."

Alevridou watched in disappointment as her team lost 1-0, a fourth straight match without victory, despite her promise to players of "a special time" at her businesses if they won the game.

"There's lots still missing. We have no midfield," said Alevridou, who is slightly built and husky-voiced. "Many of our boys have jobs that keep them working at night. And if we have a game the following morning, they can't have a real presence on the pitch ... They need more help."

They aren't the only team suffering. Greece's Amateur Athletics Federation suspended all its activities for several weeks earlier this year to protest funding cuts. And even the major football clubs sent most of their star players abroad this summer to cope with financial trouble and poor attendance, with fans no longer able to afford tickets.

Government cuts have hurt most of the teams in the local amateur league - including the majestically named Olympus, Hercules, Fearless, and Sagittarius, as well as Voukefalas, named after Alexander the Great's horse.

The impact of the crisis on sports is of major concern in Larissa. The town of 200 000 provided the only professional club to ever break Greece's big-city domination of the league, winning the national championship in 1988.

In 2007, Larissa FC also rebounded from bankruptcy for victory in the prestigious Greek Cup.

Voukefalas says it needs about €10 000 a year. Their sponsor promises there may be more money forthcoming.

"Here is where it all begins, with amateur sport. It's where the talent is bred," Alevridou noted. "I am a Greek woman, and I love my country."

She watched quietly, holding a cigarette and wearing a straw fedora with a leopard print band, as her team struggled.

"The team will get better," she said. "I'm certain of it."

  • claire.m.webster - 2012-10-17 22:53

    Classic :) Ive always thought it should be legalised in SA, safety for the women and taxable income, not that I like the taxman.

      diana.gill.18 - 2012-10-18 03:06

      Still someone disagrees with you. Probably one of those hypocrites who love to publicly slam the girls while going and seeing them on a quiet. - 2012-10-18 03:32

      Are you sure you ladies (Diana and Claire) can stand in a brothel queue and an old ugly potbellied me comes and the madame says 'which one' and I say, 'Diana please!?' I still believe choosing a catch in a bar or wherever still gives the ladies some choice and independence. Brothels? The difference with slavery looks too similar.

      customdesign - 2012-10-18 08:40

      the truth is teddy, that sex workers will be much more protected if it is legalised, and so will the rest of the community.

      johan.harlaar.9 - 2012-10-18 08:57

      @teddy bear, you are most likely one one of those guys that leeches at everything that wears a skirt and gets of in the toilet than that you will able to pick up a girl in a bar. Honestly, you stand more chance in a brothel than in a bar. On the other hand, you have 10 angels for free where others are willing to put some money down for the real thing.

      diana.gill.18 - 2012-10-18 10:27

      Is someone sure that if he goes everyday to the office to get a hiding after a hiding from a squabbler boss, to be surrounded by dumb colleagues, to speak to even dumber clients that he is going to handle it? Still he goes to the same office, goes through the same sh@t over and over again but smiles happily when checking on his own acc by the end of the month... Well if you wanna be a freelancer - go and be free, but do not complain if your business doesnt kick off or someone takes you for a ride etc. If my madam tells me to go and serve a potbelly like you - well have to go and deliver, such are the rules of the office. - 2012-10-18 10:52

      I like you Diana. So what are the coordinates to your office?

      diana.gill.18 - 2012-10-18 11:14

      You should investigate my FB profile or at least have a look at my avatar picture (news.24 is very slow to change it, still keeps an old one no matter it was replaced a week ago). Something tells me you wont be so eager to find my office.

  • hannah.p.mostert - 2012-10-17 23:45

    I agree Claire, regulating the profession would also add much needed protection to the very vulnerable woman and men of this work and give them a voice in society

  • - 2012-10-18 00:43

    Mmmm.. I wonder what the winning incentives can be. I want to be a member of that team.

      johan.harlaar.9 - 2012-10-18 08:59

      And now teddy you want to taste what it is to have sex with a slave? I actually think you a perverted puppy. Stick to your 10 angels and you can fantasize what you want.

  • Gatvol Griet - 2012-10-18 06:59

    No? Really? Here's better news: my bday today!

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