Saturday, November 17, 2012

Greek football continued its slow ascent. 1976-77 was successful season – the national team put serious resistance in their World Cup qualifying group. AEK (Athens) reached the ½ finals of the UEFA Cup. Foreign imports continued to arrive, their quality increasing. Same with foreign coaches. The league was not strong, but at least there were 4 clubs minding business. Well, their names are familiar and pretty much – eternal. The big four pursued the title, leaving the rest of league 9 points behind. It was close race – the 4th finished only 3 points behind the champions; second and third place were determined on goal-difference. The top four were high scoring bunch – the champions ended with 70:20 record – although the league was weak, +50 is rarely achieved in any championship. The silver medalists matched the goals scored by the champions, and the 3rd and the 4th also scored equal numbers: 63. Down the table Atromitos (Athens) were hopelessly out of the race, finishing last with measly 14 points. Six clubs tried to escape relegation, two ending with 27 points, and four with 26. Panaitolikos dropped to the dreaded 17th place on goal-difference and were relegated. Up from Second Division came Aigileo (Athens), winners of the Northern Second Division, and the winners of the Southern – A.S. Veria. Not exactly big additions to top flight, promoted after a murky season: points were deducted from few clubs for infractions, one of them – Kozani – had 16 points deducted as a penalty. A.S. Veria ended with strange record – the points correspond to their wins and ties, but the table has a note that 'may be 3 points were deducted'. Were they penalized and for what – nobody tells. First division was not clean either – Atromotis ended with 3 points deducted. Looks like Greek football had massive 'dark side', but only small clubs were found guilty... typical not only for the Greeks.

Anyhow, things looked rosier at the top: PAOK was unable to repeat their success of 1975-76, but still played good and came close – they finished 3rd, losing second place on goal-difference, and lagging only 2 points the champions. They also played at the Cup final, losing it by a late 83rd minute goal 1-2. May be the fans were a bit disappointed, but not a bad season at all.

AEK (Athens) missed medals by a single point, finishing at 4th place. Strong season, topped by their excellent European performance. Perhaps the squad was a tiny bit weaker then the competitions, but it was not bad at all – few national team players: Christos Ardizoglou and Thomas Mavros, as well as one of the best Greek striker-midfielders at the time – Mimis Papaioannou.

The veteran captain of AEK Mimis Papaioannou played for the club since 1963.

Walter Wagner, solid professional, completed the attacking line of AEK. The (West) German striker arrived from Austria (Vienna) in 1974 and settled well. He scored 12 goals, bested only by Mavros in the club – he scored 18 goals, 4th in goal-scoring list of the season. Another veteran striker and former national team player, Giorgos (or Jiorgos) Dedes, played little this year – only five matches. He did not score at all, but he is well remembered as one of the best goal-scorers of Greece: he got Bronze Boot in 1971 for his 28 goals, and managed 15 in 1975-76, but the age was taking its tall.

Olympiakos (Piraeus) finished second, two points behind the champions. No title, no Cup... to their standards, a disappointing season, but otherwise – quite well done.

Jiorgos Delikaris led them from midfield, strong as ever. Kritikopoulos scored 15 goals. More national team players – Siokos, Kelesidis, Kyrastas, Synetopoulos – added their weight, as well as Juan Losada, the Uruguayan, firmly established in the team since 1974. Another player who came in 1974 provided German discipline and quality. He was not an import, though – Elias 'Maik' Galakos was born in Greece, in 1951, but he grew up in West Germany, where his parents emigrated. He played in the Bundesliga – for Fortuna (Dusseldorf) – before joining Olympiakos.

Maik Galakos true to red-white stripes, but the jersey he is wearing is not Olympiakos's – it is still the one of his former club Fortuna (Dusseldorf). However, Galakos really flourished in Greece, eventually becoming a national team player. In 1976-77 he was the best Olympiakos's scorer with 16 goals. Two curios things about Galakos: his bio tells he played for Olympiakos from 1974 to 1981. Yet, he is on the team photo of St. Pauli (Hambourg) for 1978-79 season. Strange, but not the strangest – in 1981 Galakos became a traitor. He committed 'the unthinkable' – moving from Olympiakos to the arch-enemy Panathinaikos. Hatred describes the whole relations between the greatest Greek clubs and few players ever moved from the one to the other. Stars practically never moved, for fans never forget and forgive.
Galakos, Delikaris, and Kyrastas posing with Panathinaikos uniforms. Not one, but three traitors... well, this is 1981. They were still heroes in 1976-77.

Yet, the real heroes were wearing green, not red-white stripes. Panathinaikos won a double. Champions and Cup winners, and neither trophy was easy taking. 2-1 win over PAOK clinched the Cup. Two points secured the championship. Winning was nothing new for Panathinaikos, but... were the pursuers really in great form? This particular Panathinaikos vintage left few traces in history. Few of the legendary players of the European Champions Cup final in 1971 remained, and those were nearing retirement. Mimis Domazos still commandeered the play from midfield. Anthimos Kapsis and Kostas Eleftherakis still aided him. Antonios Antoniadis still thrilled the fans with high jumps and deadly headers.

Antoniadis still scored lots of goals – 18 this season. But... time was taking its tall, the great striker played only 23 matches. The top scorer of Panathinaikos was another guy: little known Argentinian striker Oscar Alvarez was recruited from equally little known Greek club PAS Ioannina. He scored 19 goals. Yet, another striker bought from PAOK to increase the attacking force, Aslanidis, was more of a disappointment – he scored a single goal in 15 matches. Curiously, Panathinaikos did not go for big foreign names – the second foreigner in the team already played in the previous season: Borivoje Djordjevic, an Yugoslavian midfielder. Kind of economic squad, which scored a plenty, at least in Greece was difficult to beat, and was good enough to add fresh trophies to the club's collection. The biggest names this year were actually the coaches. Nothing new for the big Greek clubs to employ foreigners – Olympiakos was led by the British Les Shanon. Panathinaikos went for grander names, but... it did not work. The season started with Aymore Moreira at the helm.
Moreira hardly needs introduction – he made Brazil world champions in 1962. However, it was 1976 now and old magic did not work – the Brazilian lasted for 12 rounds, about 3 months. After him a provisional domestic duo of Antonis Mijiakis and Nikos Tzounakos led the team until new coach was imported. None other, but Kazimierz Gorski.

The Pole also needs no introduction – he made Poland Olympic champions in 1972 and finished them 3rd in the world in 1974. The masterbuilder of the sensational Poland of recent years. Much more up to date with the game than Moreira. Gorski delivered – a double, no less – with a squad not so great.