NICOSIA, 30 May 2009 –
the Games of the Small States of Europe mean to the
athletes themselves? How do they feel taking part in
such an event and what can they gain? To find the
answers to those questions, we turned to the captain of
the National Volleyball Team of Cyprus, Panos Eracleous.
And he turned out to be the right man to approach.
Asked about his unique record of having taken part in
the GSSE on eight separate occasions and always emerging
a winner, he modestly confirmed, "It is true. I didn't
take part back in '89, though, because I was 14 and in
2001 because I was studying."
Asked if the GSSE were in some ways like
an Olympic Games event, only for small states, he said,
"Personally, I can never remember a stadium being half
full. That has been the case from the first time I took
part in Andorra back in 1991, at just 16. There were
definitely top-level athletes at the GSSE, like, for
example, Iceland's swimmers who were firm contenders at
the Olympic Games. Basically, I can say that for those
athletes who are not involved in football, these Games
are a celebration--perhaps even an anniversary for all
the other teams and individual sports. It is a reminder
that there are other sports apart from football."
One of the fondest, long-lasting memories
of the Cyprus National Volleyball Team captain was the
remarkable arrival of Marios Hadjiandreou in 1991 in
completely stormed the event with his record
performances in the Triple Jump. A short time later, at
the Mediterranean Games,
he made a jump of 17.13m – an almost
unbelievable performance that caused a stir. I will
never forget those times".
These Games go on to create a special
bond between everybody involved. "Those of us that are
not competing at any given time, all stand together to
watch the efforts of our fellow compatriots and support
them", commented Eracleous, adding, "Of course, we make
new friends with the players from the other teams and we
see that a lot. Personally, I am good friends with
Philip, a referee from Liechtenstein. We exchange emails
and we keep in touch."
Pausing to think about his best off-court
that he will
cherish for ever,
Eracleous said, "I always remember something which
happened in Liechtenstein back in 1999. It had become
the fashion for some team players to turn up at the
Games with dyed hair. Our captain then came up with the
idea for us to do the same at the GSSE finals. So, we
turned up at the hall with dyed red hair and, of course,
it raised a few eyebrows. It was a good laugh and we had
earned it anyway, because we put on a good performance
at the Games." Asked, why red, he simply replied, "It
was probably the only available spray colour left."
Another fond memory was the large number
of Greeks in Liechtenstein. "We had strong support from
the Greeks. As strange as it may seem, there were quite
a few Greeks in Liechtenstein. We really had some great
times with them."