Greece – Like a Family
He is now the star of the team coached by Germany’s Otto Rehhagel, a team that qualified comfortably for EURO 2008 to be held in Austria and Switzerland from 7 to 29 June, with 31 points from 12 games. “We managed to withstand the pressure and qualify from a formidable group,” comments Gekas. “I am convinced we can beat any opponent in the final tournament if we play to our potential.”
According to Gekas, one of the secrets of the national side’s success is their rapport. “When 1 know we are going to get together, I feel such an overwhelming sense of anticipation,” he adds. “It’s just like returning home to your family. That feeling alone makes you feel great.”
Two other Greek internationals play in the Bundesliga in addition to Gekas – defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos and striker Ioannis Amanatidis, both with Eintracht Frankfurt. They are close friends of Gekas’ but they maintain contact mainly by telephone. “I often have to play during the week for Bayer Leverkusen so it doesn’t leave much time for trips to Frankfurt,” he explains.
He has a good rapport with the coach as well as with his international team¬mates. “Fanis”, as Gekas is occasionally dubbed, has only praise for Rehhagel. “He is like a father to us. The head of the family.” Gekas insists that the German is a stroke of luck for Greek football, as demonstrated by their qualification for EURO 2008. The public pressure to which the Greek team was subjected during the preliminary round was almost intolerable. “The fact that we didn’t qualify for the 2006 World Cup really hurt,” he explains. “We needed this success, this opportunity to take part in the EURO in Austria and Switzerland.”