LARISSA, Greece — The world's oldest profession is giving a whole new meaning to love of the game.
Players on a cash-strapped Greek soccer team now wear pink practice jerseys with the logos "Villa Erotica" and "Soula's House of History," two bordellos it recruited as sponsors after drastic government spending cuts left the country's sports clubs facing ruin.
Other teams also have turned to unconventional financing. One has a deal with a local funeral home, and others have wooed kebab shops, a jam factory and producers of Greece's trademark feta cheese.
But the amateur Voukefalas club — whose players include pizza delivery guys, students, waiters and a bartender — has raised eyebrows with its flamboyant sponsorship choice.
"Unfortunately, amateur football has been abandoned by almost everyone," said Yiannis Batziolas, the club's youthful chairman, who runs a travel agency and is the team's backup goalkeeper. "It's a question of survival."
Prostitution is legal in Greece, where brothels operate under strict guidelines. Though garish neon signs advertising their services are tolerated, the soccer sponsorship has ruffled some feathers in the sports-mad city of Larissa. League organizers have banned the pink jerseys during games, saying the deal violates "the sporting ideal" and is inappropriate for underage fans.
Batziolas acknowledges that the sponsorship took his team by surprise. "They didn't believe it in the beginning," he said. "But when they saw the shirts printed, they thought it was funny."
Brothel owner Soula Alevridou, the team's new benefactor, has already paid more than $1,312 for players to wear her jerseys. The team is appealing the game ban, but that doesn't worry the 67-year-old Alevridou, who says she's in it only because she loves soccer.
"It's not the kind of business that needs promotion," she said, dressed all in white and flanked by two young women in dark leggings at a recent game. "It's a word-of-mouth kind of thing."