Melbourne’s Greek soccer fans are in agony as the showdown between Greece and Costa Rica ended with a penalty-shootout loss.
Much of Melbourne’s Greek community – thought to be the largest outside Europe – congregated in Oakleigh to watch their home country fight it out in the latest round of the FIFA World Cup. Greece was beaten 5-3 on penalties.
Flares were let off by some fans in the outdoor Eaton Mall, where a big screen played the match for thousands.
Another fan, Konstantinos Tsanaktsidis, said he was very disappointed with the result.
“I’m very disappointed because we were so close so many times but we couldn’t get it, and that goalkeeper on the Costa Rican side is amazing. So that’s how it goes,” he said.
“When we scored just everyone got up and it was so loud and there was so much jumping and cheering and chanting. It was probably better than any actual soccer game I’ve been to to be honest.”
“We can’t say it wasn’t fun. I can’t believe people let flares off.”
Police at the site said the crowd was well behaved, although some fans did light flares during and after the match.
Despite this, no arrests were made, officers said.
Salesman Mike Koudsoudias, who was selling Greek merchandise outside the mall, said he was hoping for a Greek victory so he could sell more stock.
“But that doesn’t matter now. I’m very disappointed.
“I knew it in the penalties it was 50/50, [but] we should have won before.”
Owner of the House of Pittes cafe, John Leloudas, said the morning was “chaotic and very good”.
“The Greek community came out in force so that was good.
“I’m not happy with the result, but the turnout was really good and everyone behaved,” he said.
Mr Leloudas said between 4000 and 5000 fans attended the soccer celebrations at the mall, which he dubbed the new Greek precinct.
“Lonsdale is finished in the city now, so Oakleigh is the place to be for the Greek community.”
The Medallion cafe restaurant on Lonsdale Street attracted a group of about 30 inner-city workers who watched the game over coffee before having to rip themselves away for work before the penalty shoot-out.
Moments after the game ended the Medallion’s owner, Ignatious Karasavvidis, longingly pointed to a collection of photos on the cafe walls.
The then Victorian premier Steve Bracks appears among of sea of revellers who had flooded Mr Karasavvidis’ Lonsdale Street institution to celebrate Greece’s victory in the 2004 UEFA European Championship final.
In these photos young men are covered in blue and white, people are laughing, the restaurant is packed, there’s table-top dancing.
Mr Karasavvidis says they celebrated from morning to night after the 2004 win.
But after Greece’s defeat on Monday the restaurant was empty and its owner disappointed.
“If they hadn’t played well, I wouldn’t be upset, but they played well,” Mr Karasavvidis says, looking up at the slow-motion replay.