Georgallis confident Greece can overcome domestic feud to qualify for World Cup

Greece coach Steve Georgallis is confident his team can qualify for the World Cup, despite a domestic feud which appears set to prevent them hosting November’s match against Scotland in Athens.

After beating Norway 56-26 in May, Greece are now drawn to play Scotland and Russia in a three-nation tournament at the end of the season, with the top two teams advancing to the 2021 World Cup in England.

Teenage South Sydney hooker Peter Mamaouzelos starred in the win over Norway, while Cronulla forward Billy Magoulias represented Greece in last year’s Emerging Nations World Cup.

There are other players of Greek heritage at NRL or Super League clubs but the majority of the squad plays in Greece, where the game is growing.

An historic Test will be played against Turkey on September 14, which will also feature a women’s match between the two nations.    

However, the Greek Rugby League Association, which is due to host the World Cup qualifying match against Scotland in Athens, is not officially recognised by the government of Greece.

Bizarrely, the government considers the Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon to be the body officially responsible for rugby league in Greece and has not sanctioned the World Cup qualifier.

Georgallis, who coached Penrith in 2011 and played more than 200 first grade matches for Eastern Suburbs Roosters, Western Suburbs Magpies and Wests Tigers, said the situation was frustrating.

“To be able to represent Greece on home soil in front of family, friends and supporters is the main reason anyone plays sport for their country," Georgallis said.

“It would be a reward for everyone involved in rugby league in Greece to be able to show the locals what the Greek national side has achieved. It would be a great advertisement for the game of rugby league world-wide if we play it in Athens.

“Personally it means everything to play the game in Athens. Greece is our home and the country we represent. If the current situation does not allow us to play in Greece, preparations become difficult as we can’t lock in training venues in Greece or overseas until known.

“It makes it very hard personally on the local players, as it is another cost, extra time off work and the chance to play in front of family and friends. The same applies to our overseas players, travelling away to play a home game takes away the importance of playing on home soil and the advantages it brings.

"I am confident that we will be very competitive. The players in Greece continue to improve every year and the game against Turkey on September 14 will add to that improvement. Scotland and Russia are quality sides who have reached this last stage with good performances and we will need to match their skill and aggressive qualities.”

Steve Georgallis with the Wests Tigers in 2000.
Steve Georgallis with the Wests Tigers in 2000. ©NRL Photos

Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne has issued a statement declaring that they have no involvement with rugby league or any other sport, but the Greek government refuses to acknowledge the GRLA as the code’s governing body.

“UIPM hereby reiterates that it is the world governing body of the Olympic sport of Modern Pentathlon and other multi-discipline sports (Tetrathlon, Triathle, Biathle, World Schools Biathlon and Laser Run),” the statement said.

“UIPM has never had nor will it have any interest in governing sports outside its jurisdiction. 

“The Hellenic Federation of Modern Pentathlon remains a member of UIPM and it is currently in good standing with UIPM. 

"UIPM will defend its name and reputation against anybody who implies that the Union is responsible for a dispute relating to a sport outside its jurisdiction, or for the resolution of any such dispute.”