George Stilianos : « We never announce the time or venues that we are playing »
We have met George Stilianos, the GRLA president, who explains the situation in which is plunged Greece for the practice of rugby league.
George, can you introduce yourself in a few words?
I am the president of the GRLA, but i’m also helping out in any way that I can; refereeing, coaching, playing, organising matches, chasing sponsors etc. Literally anything that I can do to help the players and teams.
Why did you decide to create the Greek Rugby League Association in 2015?
Rugby League started here in 2012 and after some bad administration, the majority of players left and decided to start the GRLA. We wanted things done right and to create a league where all players and teams are treated fairly and equally.
Why is the development blocked in Greece, who blocks it ?
It’s a very long story, I refer you to the article of ‘Everything Rugby League’ to get a better understanding of it. Technically, it is the Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon, but really, we all know it’s just one man on a ‘revenge mission’.
Police arrived on a match of Balkan Super League, you were questioned by the police, can you tell us this story?
Our team Attica Rhinos was hosting Serbian team Radnicki Nis. As usual, we did not announce the match online, and only secretly told our friends and families so they could come and watch. But because we knew there were people in Serbia wanting to watch, we did a live stream of the match online. So, he saw the video, and from this was able to identify the field. This is how he was able to call the police to interrupt the match.
Is it true that to face Malta, the 2 teams did not know the place of the stadium?
Yes, it is true. Only about 4-5 people in all of Greece knew the venue of the match beforehand. Players were asking me for the details of the match, and unfortunately, I could not tell them as I was afraid the word would spread and before we know it, it would reach the ‘wrong people’. So I feel terrible, that many parents were deprived of their right to watch their sons play for the national team. But I would have felt even worse, if our World Cup dream would have ended because of my ‘mistake’ by telling too many people the venue. There was a real danger of the police turning up to stop us playing so we could not take any risk of this happening. Players from both teams, and French referee Ben Casty were all asked not to post anything online from the venue either to ensure the match would remain secret.
Today, to play a game of XIII in Greece you have to hide?
Yes, we never announce the time or venues that we are playing for fear of police intervention.
What are your options and hopes for remedying this?
We are working with the RLIF and also trying to pressure World Pentathlon (essentially, it’s a member of world pentathlon that is doing all this) and the Greek government to intervene and put an end to this ridiculous situation.
The worst part of all this is that Greece can qualify for the 2021 World Cup?
Yes, we need to beat Norway in May. Then we go into a group with Scotland/Ireland and Russia/Spain. If we win those matches, we will get an historic first ever World Cup appearance. But also, it’s very likley that just one win will also be enough to qualify. But I must stress, the way things are right now, Greece is on the verge of qualifying for a World Cup, it could be a wonderful moment for Greece, but Greece itself (the state) may be the one that stops this from happening! It would be a disaster for us if we lose a World Cup spot because police turns up and shuts us down, and we lose the match on paper.