HELLAS! There may have been eight million people dancing in Athens when Greece beat France, but on Telendos I’m guessing a few extra cocktails were the limit of festivities. The island has half a dozen tavernas, two or three of which boast TVs. Walking around the night we arrived, just before the Greece V Spain game, you’d never have guessed anything was happening. But when we took a seat and asked if it was OK to watch the football, things changed a little.

We’d visited the island before, in 2000 – it was busier then, not much busier but on an island this small you notice ten extra people. No businesses had gone bust but a couple of new developments stood unfinished and forlorn down the beach end of Telendos, near the lonely cocktail bar, On The Rocks. Built for a younger crowd who never appeared, On The Rocks did brisk trade with one-day visitors but the people who stay on Telendos are mostly fiftysomething-or-older and are into relaxation, not glitz. They have a hearty appetite and enjoy the hospitality that comes from repeat visits and the taverna owners knowing your name.

The Greeks are a hospitable people but in such a small island economy that hospitality can become something uncomfortably close to deference. Iannis, who owned the place where we watched the Euro games, was a naturally friendly man and clearly loved football, but the evening’s customers came first: even if Greece was playing, they would have the best views and there would be no dawdling to watch the game. “Dawdle away!” I felt like saying. Once I realised there would be no crowd atmosphere or much overt passion I quickly got used to the particular flavour of watching football on Telendos.

It was supremely relaxing: almost too relaxing sometimes. On the day of the England-Croatia game I felt no tension, no internal build-up at all – when Croatia scored I just shrugged and kept on sipping the outrageously syrupy cocktails Iannis made. Things would come good – and if they didn’t, no bother: not an attitude I can imagine holding up in the frenzy back home.

The England games drew the biggest crowd and were the least satisfying to watch – it had never really sunk in before how much and easily some older England fans drift into congenital grumbling. At 3-1 and 4-2 up against Croatia, the team playing clearly dynamic football, these fans would slumber in an unsmiling Retsina haze until one missed pass woke their inner grouch.

And Greece? They were fortunate against Spain and apalling against Russia – Iannis gave a contemptuous shrug as the second Russian goal went in and headed for the kitchen, and that was all we saw of him until he came out smiling at the end. But there was a sense of growing excitement (tempered with a bit of fatalism – after all, they couldn’t beat France, right?) in the island Greeks – more smiles, more tiny rabbit air-punching, more impromptu conversations about the tournament. Always fighting their desire to be the perfect, polite host – not that the impulses should have been opposed in the first place. I hope Iannis and the others can let go a bit more tonight – I’ll be thinking of them as I cheer Greece on.