Greece's win at the European 2004 soccer championships Sunday was a victory of Homeric proportion. The birthplace of democracy, philosophy, and reason has reason to celebrate once again.
In what was considered a 100-1 shot (the Greeks were the second worst team in World Cup finals history and had never even won a game at a major soccer match before), they defied even the most optimistic expectations and beat Portugal 1-0 in Lisbon. That rightly set off celebrations among the Greek diaspora the world over.
Under German coach Otto Rehhagel, the Greeks beat the defending champion, France, in the quarterfinals and the Czechs in the semi-finals. And they did it as they should - as a disciplined team.
"The most important trophy is that we won the respect of others," said Greek defender Traianos Dellas.
But Greek Premier Costas Caramanlis said it best when he noted the win taught a lesson of "what we can achieve as Greeks when we really believe in something, are united and have self-confidence, dynamism, and the method to pursue it."
The win also renews optimism among the Greeks, and puts a spotlight on Athens and the Summer Olympics next month as no other promotion possibly could. It should generate more excitement, which had been lagging in the overbudget and underorganized Games.
And kudos to the Portuguese, who organized this championship, often marred by violence in the past, and kept it relatively trouble-free.
With this win, as well as its adoption of the euro, its help in stabilizing the Balkans, and its work toward better relations with Turkey, Greece may be coming into its own once again.