Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ikonomopoulos between the goal posts; Tomaras right back, Kapsis and Sourpis centre defense, Vlahos left back. Gramos, Kamaras, and Eleftherakis in midfield. Domazos right wing, Antoniadis centre forward, and Filakouris left wing. Standard numbers, standard playing scheme. Kind of. Domazos, the captain, was normally midfield playmaker, but in London – so the team scheme tells us – he was moved to the right wing. May be because of the special role Kamaras was to play – to shadow and close mark Cruiff at all time and everywhere. But Kamaras was no Bertie Fogts and the plan achieved exactly nothing. However, it was Kamaras with a chance to score for the Greeks. Puskas played conservatively, minding the defense. Panathinaikos did whatever possible and lost clearly outplayed. But they were not so bad – Mimis Domazos is still voted the best Greek midfield player of all time. Antoniadis was tall and dangerous attacker, scoring plenty. Ikonomopoulos, Kapsis, Eleftherakis were solid national players for years. If they were playing today, they would have been not only noticed, but most likely playing for bigger European clubs. It was just the time and the bias – Greeks had no football reputation, and the international market did not look their way. Specialists largely ignored them. This team is largely a Greek legend (may be not for Olympiakos fans…) and rightly so – no other Greek club reached a final so far.
There is something important to be mentioned here: Panathinaikos had no foreign players, unless the Cypriot reserve Linaris is counted. But he had no impact on the team. The final made a revolution in Greek football – only after that better foreign players were imported, Panathinaikos leading the trend. In a long run, foreigners of quality also contributed to the ascent of Greek football. Panathinaikos is important team even for that (Foreign footballers played in Greece since 1959, but the regulations were strange: technically, no foreign player was permitted to play, but ethnic Greeks from other countries were no problem. Even after 1972 many a foreigner had to take a Greek name. Until 1971 the only player of some fame was Yves Triantafilos, and that only in retrospect – after he achieved some fame back with Saint Etienne and was included in the French national team for one match.)
Panathinaikos got more than it bargained for: Ajax refused to play for the Intercontinental Cup and the Greeks played instead. They lost from Nacional (Montevideo), but they noticed the South American football market. Puskas and the cub bigwigs decided to make Panathinaikos permanent football power in Europe – and bought ‘the Witch’ from Estudiantes (La Plata) in 1972. Juan Veron was the first big name to join Greek club. Other Greek clubs hurried to do the same and soon Greece was thick with South Americans. Mind, in 1971-72 South America was not prime market for European clubs – after Italy and Spain stopped import of players in the first half of the 1960s few South Americans came to Europe (mostly, if not only, in French clubs). Hardly any South American with big name came to European club between 1966 and 1972 – so, Panathinaikos were in a way leading Europe to a neglected market.