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English haughtiness and Greek honour at centre of Harry Maguire’s Mykonos nightmare

A little local PR goes a long way for a Premier League footballer on the island of Mykonos. Just a trip to a local clothes boutique was all it took to propel Jesse Lingard into the local media there last week.

‘All the stars of world football prefer Mykonos,’ proclaimed the headline above images of him in the store and later wearing their kit on a sports field with some teenagers.

Lingard, who had also been pictured with Harry Maguire on the island before the world caved in on the Manchester United captain, was celebrated for ‘the polite way he played with young players’ in a local team.

Harry Maguire said he ‘does not owe anyone an apology’ following the incident in Mykonos

The lunatic economics of the island might mean you will pay £750 for a few bottles of Jack Daniel’s but they are still looking for some flattery when superstars visit and feel the sting of indignation when they think their reputation is impugned.

What has played out in the eight days since Maguire’s night from hell is little less than an international culture war. Sections of the Greek media re-hash Maguire’s side of the story, as told in the British media, strengthening the resolve of those responsible for prosecuting the player on the island not to budge one inch.

Maguire reiterated in an extraordinary BBC interview on Thursday night that he has nothing to apologise for, though some sources on the island still insist this would have been enough to remove much of the case against him.

‘There is a degree of honour at stake here,’ says one source. ‘There is an impression that Maguire, with his expensive lawyers and the football team behind him, think themselves superior and better than those trying to police the island.’

The full 35-minute interview, not all initially broadcast, is vivid. Maguire reaches the brink of tears at one point near the end, momentarily needing to pause when talk with the BBC’s Dan Roan turns back to his sister Daisy, who was allegedly stabbed with a needle during an initial altercation at round midnight in the island capital’s Fabrika Square.

The 27-year-old describes kneeling with his friends outside the police station, hands up, one of his wrists in handcuffs, while his legs are kicked by four men — the most aggressive of whom tells him his career is over. ‘No more football. You won’t play again.’ This goes a long way to explaining the lack of contrition.

Greek lawyer Ioannis Paradissis said he was unhappy with Maguire for not apologising

Greek lawyer Ioannis Paradissis said he was unhappy with Maguire for not apologising

But in Greece, the most revealing words of the week came from Ioannis-Iakovos Paradissis, the ubiquitous lawyer representing the police officers Maguire has been accused of assaulting. ‘What we don’t like is we found their behaviour to have been totally unsportsmanlike,’ Paradissis said when emerging from a courtroom where Maguire was initially convicted on Tuesday. 

‘When you are a sportsman and a role model you have to accept what you have done and say you are sorry. Today, no apology was received.’

The notion of contrition securing acquittal is risible. The demonstrable facts of any case are paramount in any court of law. But the closing of ranks we have seen among Greek law enforcement agencies, intent on being shown some honour, does not entirely surprise some British officers.

‘If you are going against them, they are going to stick together,’ said one experienced former officer. ‘There is potential for it to become, “our world versus your world”. They are saying, “our law is our law”.’

For all that, there is no sense from any British police sources that their Greek counterparts lack modernity and transparency. When Manchester United met Olympiacos in Athens in 2014, police officers from the two countries evidently found plenty of grounds for mutual respect.

The subsequent appeal and adjournment of the Maguire case does create time for answers to some puzzling aspects of the case. 

Reports of Tuesday’s court case suggested that the ‘little stamp mark’ and ‘needle mark’ on Daisy’s arm which Maguire described to the BBC was caused by two assailants attempting to inject her with a date rape serum. Maguire said his fiancee, Fern Hawkins, had seen his sister’s eyes ‘go into the back of her head’. She was ‘fainting and she was in and out of consciousness’.

In the appeal process Maguire's lawyers will be looking for witnesses to the initial altercation

In the appeal process Maguire’s lawyers will be looking for witnesses to the initial altercation

Though Maguire says she was in this state for only two minutes, this is potentially a gravely serious assault. Detectives here presume that she would have been taken to a medical facility at some stage on Friday to be tested.

Details of any ensuing medical examination would help Maguire’s case. It will also have helped the player’s case if, despite the trauma, she was able to provide testimony to someone before leaving the country at the weekend.

It is likely that Maguire’s lawyers will also be looking for independent witnesses to the initial altercation, none of whom seem yet to have come forward.

It will also help if the incident took place within the range of CCTV cameras, though this is also unclear. ‘Hopefully we can get the CCTV from the event,’ Maguire told the BBC.

The player defended his lack of a security detail, though relatively few present or former players actually chose to take such support staff on holiday.

Maguire seen getting escorted by police on the morning after his arrest on the Greek island

Maguire seen getting escorted by police on the morning after his arrest on the Greek island

Those who do — David Beckham, for example — tend to have the safety of their children in mind. United’s security company, CES, could certainly have provided a detail of perhaps two officers, working discreetly and paid for by the player, or Maguire could have employed local security staff, as Beckham sometimes does. But he would have been the exception to the rule had he taken this option.

There is little doubt that any such staff would have discouraged Maguire from holidaying quite so publicly, making himself a target for those intent on trouble. ‘Naive’, it the former British officer’s description of how Maguire chose to spend his break.

Maguire insisted he would clear his name. ‘The retrial will give us more time to prepare. The truth will come out.’

But his BBC interview sent Paradissis straight back into the Greek TV studios. ‘He has invented a pack of lies,’ the lawyer declared. ‘And he has not had the decency to apologise.’