My friends I decided to get out and do something ‘cultural’.
How about going to a basketball game?
Basketball really gained popularity in the late 80’s when Greece hosted the FIBA European Championship in 1987 and the Greek team won the whole thing.
Other notable accomplishments in the Greek basketball world include:
- The National Team
- Gold medal at the FIBA EuroBasket 2005
- Silver medals at the FIBA EuroBasket 1989 & 2006 FIBA World Championship
- Bronze medal at the FIBA EuroBasket 2009
Professional Club Level successes:
- 17 European championships under both FIBA Europe and Euroleague Basketball
- 9 at the 1st tier EuroLeague level
- 2 world championships at the FIBA World Cup for Champion Clubs
So you see, going to a basketball game in Greece is a cultural event!
Buying Tickets Online
We decided on an Olympiacos game where they were playing against CSKA Moscow. We went online to get the tickets in advance and hit a roadblock.
We needed to register for the site and provide an AMKA number.
AMKA is a Greek Social Security number, so as 3 foreign girls, we were not getting tickets that way.
We decided to just wing it and buy them at the stadium.
Arriving at SEF Stadium
We arrived to SEF stadium about 1 hour before the game started, found parking and were ready to go. Obviously we had to buy parking lot hot dogs to eat as we walked to the stadium.
At sporting events and concerts, you will find street food vendors outside selling hotdogs, souvlaki and other ‘I feel guilty about this, but it is good’ food.
The entrances to SEF stadium are raised up, so we followed the crowd up the ramps to the find people waiting in line to enter, but no sign of any ticket counter.
We asked someone who told us to go back down. Down we went and asked another man where to get tickets, he told us to go all the way to the back of the building.
We found the ticket office (trailer) and got in line. While waiting in line we saw a notice stating that ‘by law, you need a AMKA number to purchase tickets’.
We thought there was no way that they could only sell tickets to people with Greek social security numbers, so we waited in the line and got up to the counter.
The guy spoke English well and told us that we could use our ids, but that we need to get membership cards in order to buy tickets. Membership/fan cards were in the building (hut) next door. We waited in a short line to get our membership cards which cost 10euros and then got back in line to buy tickets.
We opted for the 15 euro tickets and we were off again to find our gate.
Inside the stadium
We missed the beginning of the game because of all of our running around / line waiting, but once inside, we found our seats easily. The stadium was packed!
Apparently it was a very popular game to attend. This was my first European sporting event, so it was all new to me.
The chanting, the drum beating, the banners, the smoking…
Yes, there was a cloud of cigarette smoke hanging in the stadium.
Did this surprise me? Just a little bit.
I’ve lived in Greece through 3 smoking bans- none of which have stuck, so the fact that people were smoking inside was not shocking. The fact that anyone, anywhere would smoke at a sporting event was more of what left me perplexed.
Sports and smoking, hand in hand.
The atmosphere was very lively with shouting and chanting.
Die hard Olympiacos fans everywhere, really into the game. I’d say the crowd was 80% male, a few women here and there and some kids with their dads. Lots of yelling and cheering and general noise making going on.
It was fun!
At half time, we needed snacks so went hunting. There were a few guys in the stands selling chips and some plastic cups of coffee (like pre-made frappe), but we were hoping for a few more options. Near the entrance, there was an elderly lady sitting with a garden table with a few cokes and bags of chips on it.
Good enough for us!
Olympiacos was behind around 10 points basically the entire game, but towards the end, things got crazy when they managed to trail by just 4 points.
The things people were yelling were just hilarious. If you know Greek swear words or in this case Greek swear phrases, you would be impressed by the creativity of these fans.
For me, it was amusing. If I was there with my grandmother or a young child, it would be embarrassing.
In the end, CSKA Moscow won, but Olympiacos had put up a good fight, especially in the last bit of the game.
5 Things you need to know if you want to go to an Olympiacos Basketball game
- You can get a Olympiacos FAN CARD online to save time
- You need to show an ID to get tickets at the game
- Be ready to witness some PASSIONATE fans
- You will smell like smoke when you leave
- It will be an excellent chance to brush up on your Greek swear words