“Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo attended a ceremony at the Greek Prime Minister’s mansion in Athens on Thursday in which his mother Veronika and his brother Alexandros officially became Greek citizens.
Although born in Greece, the 20-year-old Antetokounmpo did not previously have Greek citizenship, due to the country’s notoriously restrictive requirements for becoming a citizen.
The parents of the basketball stars immigrated to Greece illegally and had no legal status at all for some time.
After wishing them congratulations, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, at the ceremony, stressed that the Antetokounmpo family, who are “now all Greek citizens,” “reflects the Greece that we want.”
“The Greece that tries, fights, and overcomes difficulties, and keeps her family together. It is the Greece that makes us all proud,” Mitsotakis continued.
He thanked and congratulated Veronika specifically, for “raising amazing children with dignity and ethos.”
Η Βερόνικα Αντετοκούνμπο και ο Εμέκα – Άλεξ Αντετοκούνμπο πολιτογραφήθηκαν σήμερα τιμητικά Έλληνες πολίτες. Στο πρόσωπο όλης της οικογένειας Αντετοκούνμπο αντικατοπτρίζεται η Ελλάδα που αγωνίζεται, ξεπερνά τις δυσκολίες και κρατά ενωμένη την οικογένειά της. Θερμά συγχαρητήρια. pic.twitter.com/3OyQjnoOln
— Prime Minister GR (@PrimeministerGR) September 16, 2021
The youngest Antetokounmpo had to apply to become an official Greek citizen at a government office in the Athenian neighborhood of Zografou in March of 2021.
Alex Antetokounmpo, a basketball star in his own right, is the youngest son in a family that left Nigeria for Greece in order to make a better life for their children.
All of Alex’s siblings are also star athletes — along with Giannis, known as the “Greek Freak,” Alex has two brothers, Thanasis and Kostas, who also play for the NBA.
Antetokounmpo family struggled to gain Greek citizenship
The family lived in a very tenuous situation, as they were in the country illegally.
Their parents, as illegal immigrants, could not easily find work, so Giannis and his older brother, Thanasis, helped out by hawking watches, handbags and sunglasses in the streets.
Although Giannis and three of his four brothers were born in Greece, their parents had come to the country illegally.
They also did not automatically receive full Greek citizenship as Greek nationality law follows the concept of jus sanguinis, or by ethnicity.
“We always felt like Greeks”
After his mother and brother became Greek citizens, making the entire family Greeks, Giannis stressed that “we always felt like Greeks, but now that we have Greek citizenship, we’re very happy.”
Although they felt like it, the road to becoming Greeks officially was a difficult one for the family.
For the first 18 years of his life, Antetokounmpo was effectively stateless, having no papers from either Nigeria or Greece.
Both Giannis and Thanasis, his younger brother, became Greek citizens in 2013, just a few months before the NBA draft that year.
Three years later, Kostas Antetokounmpo became a citizen of the Hellenic Republic.
Their mother Veronica, however, and her youngest son Alex, did not become Greeks at the time.
Giannis, Antetokounmpo family will attend citizenship ceremony
It is only now that they will be fully recognized as citizens of Greece at a ceremony at the Prime Minister’s Mansion, with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in attendance.
Alex currently plays basketball professionally for the Spanish team UCAM Murcia. Much like his brothers, Antetokounmpo is an amazing talent at the sport, and signed a three-year contract with the team when he was just 17 years of age.
Although he’s now a pro in European basketball, the young athlete spent many years in Wisconsin, where he moved with his family to attend high school in 2013.
Upon moving to the US, Alex did not speak any English at all, but he has since mastered the language.
Despite spending his formative years in the US, the youngest Antetokoumpo brother has always felt a deep connection to his native land and culture, always considering himself a Greek.