Monday, November 16, 2009

The veterans were hardly enough to ensure survival in top level football, but Pakhtakor was not in a position to get quality players from elsewhere – the most they hoped to get was occasional veteran like Pshenichnikov or aging mid-level players like Ishtenko. So, they decided to recruit local youngsters – three of them appeared in 1972, all quickly to become stars: Mikhail An, Vasily Hadzipanagis, and Vladimir Fedorov. In 1972 they were so new, the name of one of them is actually misspelled on the photo above – but very soon not only they were spelled right, but were included in various Soviet national formations, reaching the Olympic team. However, the Korean An, the Russian Fedorov, and the Greek Hadzipanagis were perhaps the most tragic cases in Soviet football. An and Fedorov were killed along with the rest of Pakhtakor team in aircrush in 1978. Hadzipanagis escaped death, because… he was no longer playing in USSR. The son of Greek Communist immigrants was born in Tashkent, but was registered as Greek citizen – itself a very unusual occurance in USSR. When he was included in the Youth national team, it became known finally that he was not a citizen of the country, to everybody’s surprise. And he was convinced to take Soviet citizenship – thus, allowed to play for USSR, reaching the Olympic team in 1975. At that time Hadzipanagis wanted to go to Greece and was allowed to do so, another strange and unusual Soviet decision. He was immediately hired by Iraklis (Thesaloniki), a lowly Greek club, which paid him handsomely, but signed him under wicked long term contract and refused to sell him to another club. Hadzipanagis – now no longer Vassily, but Vassilis – became huge star in Greece: many consider him the best ever Greek player even now.
He played once for the Greek national team, which became a scandal – since he played for USSR’s Olympic team, FIFA rules forbade his inclusion in another national squad. Apparently, the Greeks tried to bend the rules by fielding him in a friendly against Poland. He played alright, but FIFA reacted immediately – the Greek Federation was severely warned and the match itself remains in limbo ever since: FIFA does not recognize it. Greece recognize it, often with the provison that it was not regular internatinal match, but a testimonial for a retiring player, hence, exception from FIFA rules. Poland on the other hand does not consider the match a testimonial, but a regular one and counts it as such. As for Hadzipanagis, he was never included again in the Greek squad – FIFA watched hawkishly over that – and the player regrets to this very day that he was not permitted to play for his beloved country. He eventually went back to Tashkent a few years back to play in testimonial match honoring Berador Abduraimov.
Flamboyant Hadzipanagis with Iraklis kit – a Greek legend, many go as far as to argue he was on Maradona’s level.
None of the above was even suspected in 1972 – Pakhtakor returned to First Division, hoping to remain there. Which they did and their young talented players were noticed:
Early article featuring Hadzipanagis and Fedorov (bottom) – looks like from 1973.