What really happened on Takis Baltakos’ trip to UEFA’s headquarters

The latest from the front in …picturesque Nyon, Switzerland, has Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) President Takis Baltakos, by all accounts, arriving but failing to exploit his “high-placed acquaintances” at UEFA. He also didn’t condemn what’s happening in Greek football, nor did he participate in any deliberations to solve the «Greek problem», an issue that previously even involved the country’s prime minister.

The EPO president was in Switzerland but with his “wings clipped”, and indeed for more than one reason. That’s because the leadership of the European football association was waiting for him with ominous intentions — waiting for an apology for scrapping EPO’s licensing department, where egregious violations were detected. The latter resulted in a massive fine of 200,000 euros. He’s also accountable for explanations regarding the presence of Stavros Mantalos (a member of EPO’s central officiating committee) at an infamous meeting last Monday at the EPO headquarters, held between chief referee Steve Bennett and representatives of the Super League teams participating in the current playoff round.

Mantalos’ presence has been «downplayed» by the media. However, this was the most significant development that emerged vis-à-vis the proven problem of foreign refs’ appointment in Super League matches. It demonstrates that the central officiating committee (KED) not only acts with impunity, due to Bennett’s inability to attract elite-level referees, but also ignores UEFA and the latter’s holistic study for Greek pro football. The latter envisioned and stipulated, in writing, that by the summer of 2024 only three people would have decision-making capacity in terms of Super League officiating.

All three are non-Greek nationals, namely, chief referee Steve Bennett; the head of the VAR department, Joao Capella, and Fritz Stuchlik, an adviser for the referee-observers committee.

Neither Capella nor Stuchlik was at Monday’s meeting, as obviously their chairs …couldn’t fit around the table. Mantalos was there though, and in fact, Bennett introduced him as his “vice president”, and also admitted that the latter knows everything about the appointment of referees over the past seven months. This is the same Mantalos who is responsible for refs in amateur football.
This fact alone means he shouldn’t even approach the professional Super League. Yet this confirmed all of the rumors about his involvement, and settled the reasonable questions regarding «who» and «how many» know the particulars of the referee appointments before they’re published. It’s more than obvious that if Greek football had confidence in officials of the “Mantalos-type”, there wouldn’t be a need for foreign chief referees.

From all appearances, of course, this didn’t deter EPO, which often pretends that it only answers to UEFA (due to the self-governance status), but it more-or-less underestimates the European federation more than any other regulatory mechanism. In general, there is a strange «game» going on that, definitely, leads nowhere – replete with half-truths or even an intention to deceive.

According to some since Tuesday, Baltakos was supposedly heading to Nyon to lodge …complaints, when he should, instead, apologize for the money the federation pays in fines, because he scrapped the licensing department – the only one that functioned within EPO.
Baltakos handed over such an important post of Greek football to people whose manipulations are, at best, dangerous.

Who can forget last year when Aris Thessaloniki was threatened, by them, with missing European competition, something the team had won on the pitch – a case that almost allowed AEK to play in European competition by default. Or, who can forget the episode with the emergency issues committee, which illegally issued licenses to 11 pro teams to participate – without qualifying – in last year’s Super League 2 championship.

This is a systematic violation of the holistic study, something that UEFA President Alexander Ceferin himself now knows; and confirming that the latter has an “open line” with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

As Abraham Lincoln said, ““You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

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