Greece is heading into its sixth straight year of recession. The economy is set to shrink another 4 percent in 2013, and the unemployment rate is now at 26 percent.
Sometimes those numbers are hard to wrap your head around, which brings us to one example of the tough economy in Greece which may be easier to understand: Two soccer teams are so cash-strapped that they are turning to some unusual sponsors to make ends meet.
In the central Greek city of Larissa, an amateur football team was falling on hard times, lacked all sponsorship, and found itself staring bankruptcy in the face. In stepped Soula Alevridou, a local woman who runs the Villa Erotica brothel.
“She gave the team a few thousand euros in return for them wearing bright pink football tops with “Villa Erotica” emblazoned on the back,” reports the BBC’s Mark Lowen from Athens.
Another team in the nearby city of Trikala, Palaiopyrgos FC, has found the sponsorship of a local funeral parlor. The team now dons black shirts with a cross.
Though these odd pairings have allowed these two soccer teams to survive, reaction has not been all positive. The local soccer union has banned Larissa’s bight pink jerseys and called for Palaiopyrgos FC to cover up their crosses with masking tape during matches.
“All of this shows just how desperate Greek sport is now. Funding has been slashed at the amateur and national level,” says Lowen. “Remember this is a country that just eight years ago hosted the olympics and were crowned triple champions of Europe, and now just look how far the country has fallen.”