WALPOLE, NH – Greek-American author and Walpole, NH resident George Tsitsonis has nearly 20 years of freelance experience covering Greek, European, and World football (soccer). He spoke with The National Herald about his new book, Achieving the Impossible: The Remarkable Story of Greece's EURO 2004 Victory, available on June 12.
As Tsitsonis told TNH, “This is the first book in English to chart the magnificent underdog triumph of the Greek National Team at the 2004 European Championship. It is the amazing true story of how a group of underachieving outsiders were coached by German manager Otto Rehhagel en route to a sporting triumph that shocked Europe and the world.”
TNH: How long did the book take to put together from idea to publication?
George Tsitsonis: In July 2017, I started looking at the history of Greek football closely. It dawned on me how there was not much out there regarding Greece's greatest ever football success, winning EURO 2004. Bar some articles on the Internet, there was virtually nothing on the Ethniki's victory in English. One afternoon in July 2017, I started taking notes and decided why not try and write the book on that sporting miracle. It was a lot more involved than I could have imagined, however chapter by chapter it started to come together.
It was too niche a subject for most publishers, but despite the fact that I was pretty much an unknown author, there was some interest from a few sports book publishers in the United Kingdom. Then a message came from Bonita Mersiades, the Editor of Fair Play Publishing in Australia. It seemed like a natural fit and I was honored to eventually sign with them. It helped that she had married a Greek!
Three years later here we are. It has been challenging at times, but ultimately this was a labor of love and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
TNH: How has your family reacted to the book?
GT: They have been fantastic throughout the whole process. From my wife Sheila and two children, Mariella and Elias, to my parents Elias and Lambrini, and my sister Soula as well as my extended family here in the United States and Greece- everyone has been extremely supportive over the last few years.
Whether I left a mess of papers on the table at home or was talking people's ears off incessantly about the amazing journey of the Greek team they have all shown great patience, interest, and excitement. I am indebted to them.
TNH: Where in Greece is your family from?
GT: My parents were both born in small villages in the prefecture of Karditsa. Most of my extended family in Greece are settled in Thessaly, namely the Karditsa and Larisa areas though some live in Athens.
TNH: How does your Greek heritage inform your work?
GT: I write mostly about soccer and so much of my passion for the game has something to do with Greece or being Greek. My dad loves the game and passed that on to me. We would play together with my sister in the back of our family restaurant (Diamond Pizza in Walpole, New Hampshire) where we used to have a goal!
My summers in Greece were spent with so many cousins and friends and we played and watched soccer all day long. Those summers were magical, playing in the plateia of my father's village of Pefkofito. I became absorbed by the sport while at the same time falling further in love with Greece.
Writing can be a tough discipline, but when you have seen your parents immigrate to another country, start a family, a business, and work non-stop to give their children a better life then that motivates you to face those challenges. Being of Greek heritage influences my writing deeply and in so many ways.
TNH: Are you working on another book or project you'd like to share with TNH and its readers?
GT: Currently, I do not have a set project in the works. I am a Features Writer for AGONAsport.com, a superb site that offers in-depth coverage of Greek sports in English. Looking ahead, I am considering a book covering the entire history of Greek soccer and perhaps I may try my hand at fiction. If I do, undoubtedly I will be pulled toward writing about Greece.
More information about Tsitsonis and his book, Achieving the Impossible: The Remarkable Story of Greece's EURO 2004 Victory, is available online: https://www.fairplaypublishing.com.au/product-page.