Monday, May 28, 2012

The new reality was even more obvious in the last big award: the Golden Shoe. Nobody expected an Italian goalscorer to win it – after all whole teams hardly scored 20 goals in a season ever there. Nobody expected a Spaniard to win either. Or British player. Those were tough championships with vicious defenses. But so far top European scorers were well known footballers, playing in relatively decent championship. Total football was supposed to increase scoring, since it was attacking concept – instead it made scoring almost as tough as dreadful catenaccio, although the reason was different: the collective effort did not recognize designated strikers, who are fed by the rest of team and whose role is entirely and purely to provide the finishing touch, to score. Now everybody was to score – whoever get a chance. And this approach reduced the numbers practically in every country with a strong championship. The Swiss striker of FC Zurich, Peter Risi, finished third with 33 goals. It was practically accidental record for the player. Second was familiar name – the Argentine forward of Reims (France) Carlos Bianchi. He was already third scorer in Europe in 1974 – now was second with 34 goals. Steady scorer, so unlike Risi, but it was easier to score in France than in Spain or England. First with 39 goals was Sotiris Kaiafas. Who?

Kaiafas played for Omonia (Nicosia) in the lowly championship of Cyprus. The top club there, but so what? It was not like scoring plenty of goals against, say, Inter or Barcelona – it was scoring against clubs hardly anybody knew about, consisting of part-timers and amateurs. But only the total numbers counted and 39 was good deal more than 34…

On the road to the Golden Shoe – Kaiafas (high in the middle) scoring yet another goal.

Unlikely name, but the guy deserved his award under the existing rules. Sotiris Kaiafas was 27 years old, in his prime, but with almost ten years long career already. He played only for Omonia – from 1967 to 1984, a total of 388 games, in which he scored 261 goals. The numbers are impressive – a natural born goalscorer and winner. Kaifas won 9 Cypriot titles with Omonia; 6 Cups; and was 8 times top scorer of Cyprus. The championship may not have been much, but so what? Kaiafas scored 39 goals in only 26 championship games in 1975-76 – fantastic average. He is deserving legend in Cyprus and arguably the best player Cypriot player ever.

Locally – great. Objectively – hard to tell. For all his talent, Kaiafas played little for the national team – only 17 matches, in which he scored 2 goals. It is not the goals raising doubts, though – Cypriot football was very weak and the national team rarely had the chance to attack against much stronger opponents. The problem is the games played – Kaiafas had long career, yet, his caps are few. If he was the best Cypriot player, why he played rarely for the national team? And another point: better Cypriot players usually went to play in Greece – but not Kaiafas. Was he just loyal to his club and satisfied with playing at home? Or was it that even Greek clubs (so far, hardly very choosy when it came to imports) did not consider him good enough? Anyhow, Kaiafas deserves recognition just because he was fantastic scorer. He may not have been truly great player, but even in Cyprus it could not have been just sheer luck – Kaiafas had the talent, the instinct, the touch. It is not his fault the Golden Shoe deteriorated and plunged into disrepute.