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Greek Basketball Legend Fasoulas Responds to 1987 Bribery Allegations

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Nikos Gallis lifts the European Cup in 1987. Panagiotis Fasoulas (Number 12) looks on

Greek basketball legend Panagiotis Fasoulas responded to allegations by a former Soviet team player that Greece attempted to bribe the Soviets prior to the historic gold medal game of the 1987 EuroBasket.

Thirty-four years after Greece’s triumph, Sarunas Marciulionis, considered as one of the greatest international players ever, alleged that Greek officials attempted to bribe Soviet players.

Speaking to Spanish magazine Skyhook, Marciulionis said:

“The Greeks did offer us money but none of us accepted.”

He went on to allege: “The move itself cast doubt on our team. The problem was between us, due to our poor communication. If the coach had gathered all of us requesting our thoughts on what had happened, we would have crushed the Greeks, I am sure. Instead, we did nothing, remained confused and lost. Now, I can jokingly argue that we contributed to the early development of Greek basketball without even getting paid.”

But Panagiotis Fasoulas hit back at the disturbing allegations. In a lengthy post, he said:

“Dear Sarunas,

It would have never crossed my mind that there is so much pettiness in the soul of such a great athlete like you.

Ever since the first days following the Greek team’s triumph in ’87, we were being slandered by you guys as a team, spreading false allegations that we used performance-enhancing illegal drugs. This was followed by the racist comment made by your coach who characterized us as “Mauritanians.”

You should not lose sight of the fact that in the Eurobasket that took place in Athens, the national team of Greece prevailed before beating the USSR team. We were victorious twice over the United, then Yugoslavia, which included some of the best basketball players in the world at the time. You should also remember that in the Zagreb ’89 Eurobasket, USSR lost to Greece once again.

I am willing to understand that the losses of the country which you then played for, caused serious cracks on the face of the athletic superpower, especially coming from a rising basketball country like Greece. I would never believe that all this would cause and develop so many issues for you, that 34 years later you came out with these hideous lies, and as a result we have to suffer the aftermath of them. I imagine that this incident in ’87 you are referring to went… “unnoticed” by the USSR officials who were escorting your team.

They say that the value of the losing opponent adds glory to the winner. Unfortunately, you managed to spoil it, three and a half decades later.

Kind and Athletic regards,
Panagiotis Fasoulas.”

First Greek basketball legends were born

Up until 1987, Greek basketball had been as mediocre as Greek football usually is at a European level. Yet on June 14, 1987, something miraculous happened, and Greeks began a love affair with the orange ball which has yet to cool down.

It was the 1987 FIBA European Championship and Greece had made it to the final. It was a time when the first Greek basketball legends were born, the ones who inspired the next generations and who first put Greece into a prominent place on the basketball map.

It was the time of Nikos Galis, Panagiotis Giannakis, Panagiotis Fassoulas, Fanis Christodoulou, and Memos Ioannou, names that became familiar to most Greeks, and their posters decorated the bedrooms of many a teenager.

After eliminating Italy and Yugoslavia — both favorites to win the tournament — in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively, Greece came upon Russia in the final, at a time when the countries of the Soviet Bloc had very strong national teams in almost all popular sports.

The game, held at the newly-built “Peace and Friendship Stadium,” was a nail biter, with the buzzer finding the two teams tied with a score of 89-89. In overtime, the players in blue and white managed to win 103-101, sending millions of Greeks across the globe into ecstasy. Galis scored an unbelievable 40 points in that watershed game for Greek basketball.

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