Greek player association PSAPP releases its three-episode documentary about professional footballers in the country’s second division, Super League 2, on Monday 18 September. Giannis Andreou, a 25-year-old central defender of Tilikratis Lefkada, explains why the union produced this documentary.
By Giannis Andreou
We created this documentary to change the situation that we are in right now. People have to understand the difficulties that we are facing in our career.
I have lost a lot of money, and I am not the only one. Hundreds of players have lost money. And hundreds of players lose money every year. I have lost money with three teams. One team owed me five monthly salaries, another team one, and a third team still owes me two monthly salaries.
You have to know that we, second division players, don’t earn the big wages that players in the Super League 1 are getting. We have small contracts.
When I was young, I signed a three-year contract with Panathinaikos, one of the three big clubs in our country. I thought that I would become a first division player and play in Europe. After two years, I went to a second division club because I wanted to play more. Somebody warned me: “Don’t go to the second division, because you will stay there for the rest of your career. No player ever leaves! Go somewhere else.” I thought I would make it and return to the first division after one year, but that never happened. I recently joined Super League 2 side Tilikratis Lefkada.
A lot of players in the Super League 2 don’t have enough money to live. Some get kicked out of their homes because they cannot pay the rent, others cannot afford food. When we don’t have money, we speak with team-mates or family and try to borrow some money.
There are many more problems in our league: the working conditions are poor, there are no good training pitches or training centres, there is no food and some clubs don’t even have water to drink when we play or train. There are hardly any doctors and physios – some players give their team-mates a massage.
There is nothing. It is amateur. It is only professional on paper.
When the documentary maker asked me what title I would give the league if it would be a movie, I replied: chaos. Everything is chaos!
When I was younger, one of my old clubs put me in a hotel because they did not have the money for a home. However, they didn’t pay the bills and I got kicked out on the streets. I had to move to another hotel, where I again was kicked out after a while, and then again with another hotel.
When I played for a club on the island of Crete, we had an away game in Kerkyra on Corfu, which is an island in the northwest of our country. A flight takes you there in two to three hours, but our trip took 22 hours. We first took the boat to Athens, then we drove by bus to Igoumenitsa, and after that another boat to Kerkyra. And the club did not provide us with any food – we had to buy it ourselves.
I once had a team-mate who, after we had training in the morning, went to a hair salon to work as a hairdresser. I had lots of team-mates with a second job. If you have a wife and two or three kids, and your team doesn’t pay you, then you have to take a second job to get by.
We are romantics, we love football. But we also have to make a living from football. My mother goes to an office to earn money, I play football to earn money.
I once considered quitting my playing career. I was 20-years old and had gone six months without receiving my salary. I could not continue like that, so I started studying. I got my bachelor’s and two master’s degree, and in the meantime also started a case against my club to successfully get my salary arrears.
My family always told me to chase my dreams but to study as well. “If you cannot make it as a player, then you will always have your academic career.”
A lot of good players did quit. The third and fourth division are amateur leagues, but there are many quality players. When they were 23, 24 they decided that they could not continue in the second league and looked for another career to earn an income.
The main problem is that the league is poorly managed. Super League 2 consists of two divisions: North and South. Each has 13 teams, but only two or three of those teams are properly managed, as well as the second teams of AEK, Olympiakos, Panathinaikos and PAOK. The other 16 teams have problems. Each team has 25 players, so you can imagine how many players are experiencing issues. And we should also include technical staff members, as coaches experience similar problems.
I’ll give another example: each year the league says it starts around mid-September, but every year it starts at the end of October or beginning of November. Last season, it started on 4 November. That is terrible, because there are clubs that will not pay their players until the championship has started.
Sometimes I think that only our player union, PSAPP, really cares about the second division. But when we speak about problems, then we become the bad guy. However, if PSAPP, the government, the federation and the league sit down at the same table and seriously discuss things, then they can come up with good solutions.
I am convinced the documentary will help us. After PSAPP released the trailer of the documentary three weeks ago, a lot of people sent me messages saying: congratulations, very good job. Before, a lot of people did not believe me when I told them about my life as a second division player. But now they believe me.