Germany enlists star football coach to mend ties with Greece

Germany enlists star football coach to mend ties with Greece

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Germany enlists star football coach to mend ties with Greece

In this Thursday, May 22, 2008 file photo Greece's German coach Otto Rehhagel waves a Greek flag to students before a training session in Athens. He pulled off one of football's greatest historic upsets _ with a stunning win of the 2004 European Championship. Now Rehhagel has been handed a task equally challenging: to make Germany popular again in crisis-hit Greece. AP photo

Germany has enlisted the help of much-loved football coach Otto Rehhagel -- who led Greece to victory at the Euro 2004 -- in a charm offensive on Athens aimed at improving frayed ties between the two countries.

Many Greeks hold Germany responsible for the harsh austerity measures imposed since the onset of the economic crisis in 2010, while some Germans have expressed resentment over the Greek bailouts -- causing tensions between both nations.

Rehhagel - reportedly handpicked by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who believes his personality and popularity in Greece can help improve Germany's image -- is part of a special team that this week arrived in Athens.

On March 26, he met Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni, the ministry said in a statement.
 The 74-year-old was also given an award for his contribution to Greek sports, state broadcaster NET reported.

"We (Germany and Greece) are connected by friendship and a common culture," he told journalists before attending a friendly football match.

"Whatever happens Greeks will remain our friends. We have to help countries that are down on their luck," he added.

Rehhagel told German daily Bild earlier this month that he knew his name was "very positively portrayed in Greece." "After all, we won the Euro 2004 and nobody thought it possible. So it is with pleasure that I will go to encourage my friends in Greece," he was quoted as saying.