Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Girl of the Greek green clover

pao.pngIs home girl really going to talk about Greek football? Help us.

Growing up in America, football was a sport in which I held season tickets, and soccer was an unknown sport with a black-and-white ball.

I then did an extensive European trek in winter 1997 and reprogrammed myself to say ‘football’ — a word that the rest of the world recognizes as not just a game, but a religion by which some fans literally live or die with fervor.

My first fervor

My limited Greek language skills prevented me from saying Panathinaikos the first year, so I just called them the green team, much as I called Olympiakos the red team. Weak, I know. Football slowly forced its way into my life over the years because most of my friends are men, though I have no loyalty to any team, cannot quote hard stats and have never painted my face. I’ve also lived in PAO neighborhoods, which I figured out by reading graffiti and listening to men scream and swear at televisions on balconies.

My association with the three-leaf clover is accidental.

Tinos had two tickets to see Panathinaikos vs. Aris at the stadium on Alexandras, and I volunteered to go since his buddies had previous commitments, and he didn’t want to go alone. For me, it was the day I realized I owned nothing green and coins could be weapons. For him, it was a chance to see a team he loved and recapture a childhood spent attending games with his grandfather.

I was tricked into believing Aris’ colors were “red and blue,” so I avoided those colors and put on black. Of course, I discovered Aris’ colors are black and yellow once inside the stadium — my friends can be sneaky mo-fos, sometimes — and cursing and slapping Tinos only made him laugh harder about the possibility of me being lynched if Panathinaikos lost. At least we weren’t sitting in the G13 cage.

The most memorable thing about that game was seeing Tinos get both stoked and sentimental, whether it was the charm of a crumbling stadium, makeshift carts with burning hot dogs, fans cursing various mothers, the raw mania of G13, seats that made our asses hurt or memories of his grandfather. At one point, he got choked up and I with him.

It may sound ridiculous, but a part of me saw how love for football could spill over to life, and our friendship grew stronger because of it. Or maybe we were high on the tireless, infectious energy of G13 singing my favorite PAO song.

Oxi, den einai to horto magiko!


Trifilara s’agapo
Kai pantou s’akoloutho
Giati eisai i zoi mou!
I anapnoi mou!
Kai gia sena tragoudo.

Pao leo leo leeeeeey
Pao leo leo leeeeeey
Pao leo leo
Pao leo leo
Pao leo leo leeeeeey

(Repeat infinitely, while shirtless and beating a drum)

Translation: Three-leaf clover I love you, and always I follow you, because you are my life! My breath! And for you, I sing.

Congratulations to the 2009 Euroleague Champions!

See you at Nou

Years later, a bunch of friends asked if I wanted to attend an away game when Panathinaikos played Barcelona. I think they sometimes forget I’m a woman because it was going to be me and four men sharing a plane ride, a 3-bedroom apartment and one bathroom. They didn’t forget, however, that I could speak Spanish.

So off we went for four days and three nights. Oy. It’s when you spend continuous blocks of time with people that you truly get to know them, and I realized that I brought all the ills of Athens with me. It was like we weren’t in Spain.

The majority smoked, talked on the phone (which they later regretted upon seeing the bill), ate only Greek food and McDonald’s, smoked some more, drank coffee and absolutely refused to try any local food or see Gaudi. After all, they were only there to buy BCN jerseys and see the game.

On game night, the guys gussied me up in green and we entered an empty stadium three hours in advance, a measure to protect ‘away’ fans from clashes with hooligans. Police escorted us to our seats, just as they would take us out an hour after Camp Nou was deserted and BCN fans were gone. We were few but loud. Unfortunately, we were not more clever than die-hard BCN fans who came armed with banners bearing insults written in Greek.

I called Tinos at home in Boston to let him know he was there with me because although Panathinaikos was not victorious, lingering memories of our first game together still made the moment glorious.

Miss you, T.


A shout out to the cool guys at, where I’m fortunate to have a few fans.

In the news

PAO stadium put on ice” — Kathimerini
Panathinaikos vs. Olympiakos: A Night of Greek Drama” — NY Times Sports

Related posts

Four songs in Greek that always make me cry
Cockroaches and courthouses, leases and landlords
More windows on Greek TV than in my house

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  Stathis wrote @ November 13th, 2007 at 10:21

Καλά ρε έκανες 20.000 χιλιόμετρα για να γίνεις βαζέλα!! Αυτό είναι αρρώστια!!!
Φιλιά Kat.

Kat Reply:

S – Prosoxi PAOK boy, going to an away game in BCN doesn’t make me vazela. I happen to love the city. Arrosti eimai? Ela vre, I’m an American in Athens when I could be in California…it’s obvious I’m crazy. 😉

  NJ Greek wrote @ November 13th, 2007 at 14:37

What is the meaning/background story of “Gate 13” to Pao fans?

Kat Reply:

NJG – I feel weird answering a Greek football question as a non-Greek American girl, but Gate 13 refers to the location or thyra where the “Green Rebels” sit at the Apostolos Nikolaides stadium on Alexandras Ave. (or Leoforos), and an official club was started in 1966. From what I could see, the section now extends beyond Gate 13, and of course there’s a cage around that area to contain the “enthusiasm,” as with many stadiums. When the new stadium in Votanikos is ready, the “old” stadium will be knocked down except for G13, and a museum will be built around it. The new stadium was supposed to be ready in time for the 100th anniversary in 2008, but of course it’s on Greek time and late. and are good sites if you can read Greek.

  graffic wrote @ November 13th, 2007 at 20:05

The first thing that I want to say for those banners is sorry. I feel a bit ashamed for those things but… wait, that the people of Barcelona don’t speak Spanish (ok, only 50%). I hope it was that 50% just not to feel bad 😛 (excuses).

Well, I don’t like football on TV or the radio, it’s booooooooooooooring. I’d prefer a movie or good music. But it’s totally different when you go to the stadium. As you said: the people, the general mood, the food… everything creates an ambience…I love it.

Therefore I like my “local team.” Why? Because the stadium was nearby. But I don’t go so often, and now in Greece I’m a bit lost with the teams 🙂

So I hope to have the opportunity to enjoy a nice live match (I don’t care about the teams).

Kat Reply:

G – Hey, well maybe we saw each other because it was a few years ago. Camp Nou is huge! And the superstore on three floors with a refreshment stand (just for the store)…just amazing. True, I don’t speak Catalan, but most people understood me just fine. 😉 Anyway, swear words are universal and need no translation.

  DIO wrote @ November 13th, 2007 at 20:25

ok, let me put it to you straight…
if you were rooting for the 49ers you have to go with Panathinaikos BUT
if you were rooting for the Raiders you should’ve gone with PAOK…

Kat Reply:

Yo D – Well, that’s why I’m confused because I’m from the nation where it’s better to reign in hell and Hetfield from Metallica is sitting next to me. I suppose it should’ve been a sign when I owned nothing green, eh? 😉 Maybe it’s too late to convert, I’m sentimentally attached.

  Stathis wrote @ November 13th, 2007 at 20:51

only joking my friend!!!
And there is something worse than being vazelos!
Being gauros!!!

Plaka plaka i like the Raiders as well!!!
I even have two baseball caps from them!!


Kat Reply:

S – Ah, so now we share the back in black connection too.

  EllasDevil wrote @ November 13th, 2007 at 21:30

Kat, the game you attended at the Camp Nou. Was it the one where they lost 5 nil ?

Kat Reply:

ED – Oh, so close! It was the one they lost 5-1. Why, were you at the 5-0 game?

  EllasDevil wrote @ November 13th, 2007 at 21:50

I was 🙂

Kat Reply:

ED – Wah! We missed each other again!

  António wrote @ November 15th, 2007 at 17:57

The coach is my compatriot José Peseiro. I hope he is doing a good job. Is he?

I don’t know, but there is something Irish in that club… the green shamrock… 😉

Kat Reply:

Antonio – To be honest, I think the team suffers from lack of team cohesiveness and cooperation because it’s a revolving door of players coming in and out. But the coaching I’m sure is superb. It’s just very difficult to build a team with a bunch of young individuals not working together.

  Minion wrote @ November 17th, 2007 at 10:25

Great site! I just love it!

Kat Reply:

M – I love minions.

  vasilis wrote @ November 25th, 2007 at 17:28

Hey what’s happening here? Panathinaikos is my favourite team. In basketball we are the best in Europe, in soccer we just fight… Kat you’re beautiful

Kat Reply:

V – Hey, not following my posts, eh? 😉 I still think you’re sweet.

  yiannos wrote @ November 27th, 2007 at 14:17

i hate soccer with a passion. i hate sports in general; i’m a snob.

that is all.

Kat Reply:

Y – Well, blah. 😉 Like I said, I can’t quote stats and don’t follow any one team either, but it’s good to know at least a bit.

  Pat wrote @ April 10th, 2008 at 20:21

I went to Greece a few months ago to visit my Greek co-founder. And his father gave me a scarf for the “green” team. I wish I had asked to go to a game and the G13 section! Now I know for next time.

Andy did warn me about the coins-as-weapons. And I thought Raiders fans were hardcore serious.

The other stat you should mention is that in Greece there are 13(?) sports newspapers and 2(?) serious newspapers. (I know I got the exact number wrong but not the ratio).

As a sidenote: it really sounds like you fell in love with the promise and history of Greece. It is a shame that it was unrequited love – your site reads like a James Joyce novel. Have you thought of converting your experiences to a semi-biographical novel? It sounds like you still have enough humor and love for what “could be” to lighten up the dark spots, so that people could enjoy it. I hope you give it a shot. Certainly you are collecting a lot of background research right now, and I will see you on Oprah’s Book of the Month club 😉

Kat Reply:

The stats you quoted for printed media change all the time. But yes, there is a disproportionate number considering Greece’s population. Many start them for vanity reasons, much as owners in NY.

Thank you for your encouragement. It has been proposed by more than a dozen people in the business that I convert my story to a book. We’ll see what happens.

I appreciate you stopping in 🙂

  Janis wrote @ May 2nd, 2008 at 20:37

I’ll admit right off this comment is irrelevant to the article, but it IS relevant to the topic (sports), and I searched your page for the answer (in order to avoid a, albeit warranted, tongue-thrashing for failing to notice my topic had already been addressed) and am sufficiently satisfied it isn’t already there. Or dissatisfied, because that may mean you don’t know!

ANYWAY, I’m not an American living in Athens, I’m a Canadian here for a couple months, but I’m desparately searching for just a little taste of home and thought you might know where to look. Specifically, I’m not sure I can go 2 months with warm weather and no softball. Yes, I will survive without it, but I brought my glove just in case. And I happen to throw alright (and not just for a girl).
On a side note, I really appreciate all of your insight into living here! Very useful. And I send you my condolences for all of the redundancy, and apologize in advance if my attention-span-of-a-goldfish search mechanisms have led me to miss something on your page that might have helped me!

Thanks again!

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