As MundoBasket 2014 takes off in Spain, one of the historical heavyweights: Greece, were missing three of their major players. These were Diamantidis, who retired from international basketball, plus Koufos and Spanoulis who said they were two exhausted. However, there is much hope for Greece with the new and exciting: Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 19 year old wonder kid who recently went to the NBA to play for Milwaukee Bucks.
Yet despite his extremely Greek sounding name Antetokounmpo is in fact of Nigerian descent, with his parents migrating to Athens before he was born. With the financial crisis currently taking place in Greece, and the rise of the fascist party: ‘Golden Dawn’, a racist campaign has started on Social Media against Antetokounmpo being allowed to represent Greece. Nikolaos Michaloliakos the leader of Golden dawn even went as far as likening him to a ‘chimpanzee’.
There has also been a campaign on social media to have his Greek citizenship removed, which he and his older brother, who plays for New York Nicks, had struggled to get and which had almost stopped them from being able to travel to the United States in order to join the NBA.
Antetokounmpo and his brothers had, like many people in Greece, to sell plastic watches and toys on the road in order to help him and his family get by. Him and his older brother Thanassis played together in the Greek B Division, the second tier in Greek Basketball, with Filathlitikos B.C. and he is now thought of as the most exciting prospect Greek Basketball has ever produced.
It is hard not to draw parallels with football team Liverpool’s temperamental new signing, Mario Balotelli, whom has suffered a lot of racist abuse in Italy due to his Ghanaian roots, despite being raised in Italy and being a proud Italian. When challenged on his discipline problems he said:
“I am a naturalized Italian, but I’m from Ghana. I was abandoned by my parents when I was child and adopted by two angels. I suffer with racism every day. I am the first black to wear Italian shirt. I’m not angry, but my life experiences make me act differently from other people. Then, try to learn more about me before you criticize me. I feel Italian, only Italian, I love Italy and I will play only with Italian shirt.”
Like Balotelli, Antetokounmpo is very proud of his country. When getting his draft pick Antetokounmpo was seen crossing himself in the Greek Orthodox style and celebrating with the Greek flag (pictured above).
With his older brother in the NBA and two of his younger brothers back in Greece looking like promising prospects for the future, Golden Dawn may have to get used to four Antetokounmpos in the national team of Greece’s favourite sport.