FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — Greece's World Cup players want their bonus money to be used to build a new training site for the national team in the cash-strapped country.
Yiannis Andrianos, the government's general secretary for sports, said Monday that players had written to Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras asking that the money be used to fund a new training site and that he had promised to do "everything possible" to respond to that request.
Greece was eliminated from World Cup late Sunday, losing a penalty shootout with Costa Rica in the round of 16.
A seaside training facility near Athens is due to close next year due to a major redevelopment project. Public spending on sports has been drastically reduced since Greece was struck by a major financial crisis in 2009.
"The team is to be congratulated for the character it showed at the tournament, but also for their letter seeking the use of their bonus money to construct a training site," Andrianos said. "The prime minister has responded positively to this request, and the government guarantees that every effort is made to provide a new facility."
It was not clear how much money the team members would give up, and officials making their return journey to Greece could not be reached for comment. But earlier in the week, Greek football federation officials said a bonus for reaching the last 16 at the World Cup would total 1 million euros ($1.37 million), with additional money for participation and preparation also due to the players and federation.
Playing at its third World Cup, Greece rebounded from a 3-0 opening loss to tournament standout Colombia, holding Japan 0-0 and defeating Ivory Coast 2-1 to reach the last 16 for the first time.
The Greeks headed home without Portuguese coach Fernando Santos, whose contract ends after the tournament.
And Giorgos Karagounis, Greece's 37-year-old captain, also ended his international career in Recife, with 139 games that included Greece's stunning 2004 European Championship victory. Despite his age, he outran every other player on the Greece squad, covering 13.6 kilometers (8.5 miles) in Sunday's game.
Costas Katsouranis is the last member of the 2004 squad still in the national team, but at 35 also is likely to have played at his last major tournament.
Striker Georgios Samaras, who scored the late winner against Ivory coast in Fortaleza, promised to keep their legacy going.
"Santos and Karagounis leave a huge gap," said Samaras, who left Celtic at the end of the season. "The coach brought us great success and the player ... was one of the best of the decade. As a team, we'll fight on under a new coach, for more successes."
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