He spoke about everyone and everything Nikos Pappaswho gave an interview to Tassos Mergiannis and to the Amarysia newspaper.
The veteran guard and candidate for Mayor of Athens referred to his experience in the wheelchair basketball team, while Giannis Antetokounmpo expressed his pride in what he achieved in his career.
In detail, what he stated in the Amarisia newspaper:
– The season that ended was special for you, as on the one hand it was your last year on the court and on the other hand last April you experienced an unprecedented experience, making your debut with the PAO wheelchair basketball team. What feelings did the year leave you with?
“Starting with Panathinaikos, I would say that although he built a new team with a lot of ambitions, things did not develop as the people at the club expected. At some point while I had stopped the preparation, which I had started since August, the president suggested that I return to the team in an administrative position. I explained to him that I would like to finish the season as a player and then we can have this discussion. He made it clear to me that it does not interfere with the competition and finally with the decision of the coaching staff I returned to the team where I spent most of my career and I am very happy about it. As for the wheelchair team, PAO AmbA did me the honor of including me as one of two able-bodied members eligible on their roster two years ago. It was a proposal that was honored. The team was aware of my interaction with the team and in this way they reciprocated that support. Finally, I made an appearance with the team. I knew the guys were playing championships and I didn’t want to waste a roster spot just to do my part.”
– How was the experience of playing wheelchair basketball as an able-bodied person?
“The whole team embraced me and accepted me from the first moment. It was a great experience in a difficult sport. I was happy to score my first basket and it’s something I’ll remember forever!”
– What did you learn about disabled athletes that you didn’t know before this experience?
“The most important thing that every able-bodied fellow should realize is that he could very well be in the shoes of these children, because most of them are in a wheelchair after accidents that have happened to them. These people do not ask for mercy, nor for pity, but for proper treatment with respect and dignity. They are not just athletes, but champions. So you understand how competitive and “selfish” – in a good way – they are. I admire and am proud of the people who make up the social group called the Disabled! Every time I meet them, my emotions are intense, maybe because I don’t have the daily friction with them to debunk them.”
– You have described wheelchair training as “heroic”. Can we really imagine how much more “heroic” is the daily life of a disabled person in Greece?
“With this thought, the whole story started with my participation in the team. Every time Panathinaikos’ wheelchair basketball players came to practice at OAKA and passed through the court with their wheelchairs in their hands, a contrast of emotions was automatically created for me. On the one hand I, being fit, did my training bored and thinking “let’s leave” and on the other hand these children who with so much self-sacrifice, appetite and longing wore the shirt with the shamrock. In addition to courage, they also gave me a reflection and an impulse to get to know them up close.”
– Is the fact that the major issue of accessibility has not been resolved for these people a sign of our society’s lack of education?
“It’s definitely a lack of education and respect, since whatever accesses there are for people with disabilities, they are arbitrarily trampled on and there are no appropriate facilities. From a research I recently did in the area of Local Government, there are very few parks or playgrounds that can serve the disabled in Greece. Although according to statistics, there is a disabled person in every building block, if you stand on the street you won’t see a single one! They are afraid to go out or are embarrassed, because there are not the right conditions that will ensure their accessibility. I am saddened and saddened by this and I hope a formula can be found to change it.”
– Was this also a reason why you thought of getting more actively involved in the area of Self-Government?
“Certainly when I was offered to run as a candidate for mayor of Athens, my priority was to join my faction, but also to listen to their concerns and needs, they were people with disabilities. I came into contact not only with people in wheelchairs, but also with a child with Down syndrome, who I didn’t know I could not only communicate with, but eventually enjoy his company and interact with for hours. Equal opportunities and equal rights with everyone should be a matter of course for this category of our fellow human beings. Unfortunately, they are not treated that way.”
– How did you decide to donate your last contract with PAO to the ladies who clean the OAKA?
“It was nothing special. We are not talking about any large amount.”
– It doesn’t matter the amount. We are talking about something that is not only unusual but also sounds almost unimaginable…
“I don’t ever remember functioning…ordinarily! They call me unconventional because I have learned to operate primarily with emotion and then with logic. To get to the question, we are talking about the women who for so many years have taken care of providing us with everything at OAKA, so that we can only deal with basketball. It would not be right not to give them due importance and recognition. I thought that since it was the last year of my career, it would be nice to give a small gift to the unsung heroes of the dressing room, in which we also move for so many years to reach the recognition”.
– Taking stock of your career, since you hung up your shoes, do you consider yourself successful? Did you do all you could do in basketball?
“No complaints. I managed to make a living through a sport that I loved since I was a little kid and I had it as a hobby. I was able to have everything I dreamed of – as vain as it sounds because these are material goods. From there I also acquired a “popularity” or “reputation”, which I can capitalize on through my words or actions. I believe that if I hadn’t had a couple of serious injuries I could have done more, but it all makes you wiser and more experienced. I’m satisfied and I don’t have any competitive repulsion”.
– Although you had a full career, you did not have many appearances with the National team. For what reason;
“I know the reasons why I wasn’t invited to the men’s national team. In any case, I often rejected it too.”
– Were the reasons extraneous?
“The whole process contained things I didn’t like. I wonder how, even today, players accept these conditions. Sacrificing rest, vacations and free time with your family, risking possible injury without getting paid, while the coach and all the staff are being paid regularly. Being forced to go to church, visit sponsors, ministers and prime ministers… All these are not my style and I never liked them. Also, what I found out is that in the National team you are the target of every fan journalist’s complex, as a result of which the Olympiacos mess with Panathinaikos and vice versa and a toxic environment is created that I never liked”.
– What do you predict the national team will do in Mundobasket this year?
“I didn’t know it has Mundobasketball”…
– Obviously you can’t answer my question if Giannis Antetokounmpo will compete in the event! Do you keep in touch with him?
“We don’t have such a relationship that I can call him and ask him if he will play. We have known Yannis and his family for many years, since the time when we lived in Sepolia and had shared experiences. I could say that then I had him in “pressure” and basketball “bullying”. I consider that I also had a hand in helping his family leave a toxic neighborhood.”
– Why was Sepolia a “toxic” neighborhood?
“You can see in opinion polls what percentage Sepolia gives to far-right parties. Unfortunately, there were people who did not like the color of John and his family. I and several other people tried to protect Giannis from such behaviors. What happened from then on and where everyone ended up, are things known to everyone… All this makes us feel even more proud that Giannis made it.”
– Has the monster of fascism been defeated in Greece or is it like the Lernaean Hydra that keeps giving birth to heads?
“Intolerance and racism still exist in our society. Certainly as citizens we are to blame, because we allowed it to happen, but it is also a political issue. What can you say when a government gives a platform to people with far-right views, such as Adonis, Voridis or Pleuris, when SYRIZA turns a blind eye to the voters of GOLDEN DAWN in order to “beg” for votes, when Velopoulos is present in this Parliament, the SPARTANs and the VICTORY… All of these are not just retrograde, but obsolete. We are not addressing a society of high intelligence. Unfortunately, there are uneducated and uncultured people who belong to the Electoral College and don’t want much to bite.”
– Do we have the Parliament we deserve?
“Absolutely, as we have the society we deserve. When there is a percentage of more than 50% who do not go to vote and leave this place to its fate, then we want them and we get them!”.
– A few days ago you turned 33. Perhaps at the most productive age in a man’s life, you are called to redefine your professional orientation. I wanted to ask you what you think about the next day, but also if you are afraid of the possibility of depression, a phenomenon that is often observed in those who stop playing championships.
“What you mention is a very likely possibility for someone who hasn’t made a rudimentary prediction of what’s coming. We are talking about a profession with an expiration date. It is not a small thing for an athlete of some stature to have some of the benefits he had as a professional, such as recognition and money, come to an abrupt end. Personally, I was fortunate in my misfortune, as due to the serious injuries I had, I experienced long periods of inactivity in my career and within me was working the next day. After all, I was never devoted exclusively to basketball. I had concerns off the court as well. So, I think that the transition will be easier and I’m already experiencing it that way.”
Source: Sport Fm
I am currently a news writer for News Bulletin247 where I mostly cover sports news. I have always been interested in writing and it is something I am very passionate about. In my spare time, I enjoy reading and spending time with my family and friends.