Saturday, November 19, 2011

Olympic football is not bottom level game of course. Let’s go deeper down… a competition as well, for sometimes is more difficult to figure out the worst than the best. All too relative as well: Malta, Luxembourg, San Marino, Iceland, Cyprus, Albania, Finland, Norway… the pariahs of European football. They rarely met head to head in official games, making it tough to compare. Making it tough to really know and show local heroes.
Cyprus by default, then. After returning to normal league football one thing was normalized: a club was able to win back to back titles, since there was no more joining the Greek First league. This benefited mostly Omonia (Nicosia) in my view.
It is not ‘Omonia’ and it is not ‘Nicosia’, but Omonoia (Lefkosia) – both the city and the club are written and pronounced differently in Greek, yet, the ‘Westernized’ misnaming stuck outside the island. The name means ‘Unity’ and the club is relatively new: it was found in 1948, a result of political struggles and tensions originating in Greece. The Greek Civil War between Right and Left after the end of the Second World War rocked Cyprus as well and one result was a group of players expelled from or refusing to play for Right wing club APOEL. The formed Omonia and the club joined the Cyprus Football Association in 1953. The yearly years were modest, but eventually the newcomers built strength – they won there first title in 1961, which proved to be not incidental at all. Their nickname is ‘Kifinea’ – ‘male bees’ – and ‘male bees’ are drones: hardly a compliment, unless one thinks of happy lazy life and occasional sex. However, drones Omonia were not – at the beginning of 1975-76 season they had already 5 titles and three Cups, having been champions in 1974 and 1975. They found themselves champions again in 1976: 6th title and their 3rd in a row.
Champions, but enigmatic as well – I am not sure of the proper spelling of the names, so forgive me. Top, left to right: Drakos, Dimitriou, Kanaris, Shakolas, Kondoyorgis, Loukas, Gregory, Peppis, Tzvetan Ilchev – coach, Andreas – assistant coach.
Bottom: Stelios – administrator, Andoniou, Phitis, Charalambous, Elephteriadis, Mavris, Patikis, Chaklis, Kaiafas.
Their Bulgarian coach Tzvetan Ilchev left right after winning the title, but what other interesting news? Surely they had a few national players, hardly known outside Cyprus. Lowly team, no? Except for Sotiris Kaiafas – the goal scoring machine. Kaiafas at the end became the only known abroad player, for he was the top European goalscorer in 1976 and got the Golden Boot award. In a way, Kaiafas continued the unhappy political tradition of Omonia: he was a refugee from the Turkish part of the island, his home village run over in 1974 and suddenly appearing behind a border. And because of that Kaiafas was one of the very few Cypriot players to experience foreign football – he played one in South Africa, an ironic twist in a way, but he came back to Cyprus and joined Omonia to mutual benefit. At the end, he is one of the best ever Cypriot players and certainly the best all-time Omonia player, a legend.
Right wingers got their revenge:
APOEL (Nicosia) won the Cup, but there is nothing more to say about them. Except it was their 9th Cup so far.