Monday, December 24, 2012

Cyprus, probably a tiny bit weaker than Albania. Also with new format for the season, but in their case it was enlargement. From the early 1970s the Cypriot league was gradually getting bigger – from 12 teams to 14, then 15 in 1975-76, and 16 for the 1976-77 season. Nothing wrong with that – 16 teams was and is the most popular league format, perhaps the best. The question, however, was about reason – weaker leagues should be smaller. On the other hand, a bigger league may help developing of competitive football. Just may be. Anyhow, the Cypriots went ahead with 16 teams, with only one team facing relegation. Up from Second Division was promoted APOP (Paphos), a truly unsettled club, constantly moves between 1st and 2nd divisions. Once again they were going up for 1977-78. The relegation spot in 1st went to ASIL (Lisi), insignificant club even by Cypriot measures. Just to play top flight was a gigantic success for ASIL; predictably, they did not last. They earned only 7 points from 30 championship games, winning a single match. There was practically no fear of relegation for anybody else – ASIL took firmly the last place. No fear of relegation, but hardly competitive battle for the title either: only two clubs fought, high above the rest – the difference between second and third place soared to 11 points by the end of the championship. Pezoporikos (Larnaca) finished comfortably third, 4 points ahead of Aris (Limassol). The real battle was quite old and political as well – between Omonia and APOEL, between the Left and the Right. APOEL lost by three points – Omonia, to he joy of her Leftist supporters won confidently. APOEL lost only a single match and received the least goals in the league, but it was no comfort.

Forth title in a row for Omonia and 7th altogether - they dominated Cypriot football, becoming the supreme club. By now the chants of other fans “apply to the Soviet Federation and go play there” were losing bite: Omonia was too strong and if there was any hope for some international success, it was in the feet of Omonia. They had the only relatively known Cyrpiot player – Sotiris Kaiafas, the goal-scoring machine. Naturally, Omonia scored the most goals during the season – 88, 11 more goals than APOEL, and Kaiafas was responsible for that. Then again... in a league so weak it was not all that difficult: APOEL's 77 goals were 24 more then the third highest scorers, Aris.

With two clubs obviously stronger than the rest the Cup final should have been one more contest between APOEL and Omonia – but it was not. Another club from Nicosia reached the final – Olympiakos. The other finalist was the lesser club of Larnaca – Alki.
Alki, depending on the year, was either the 2nd or 3rd club of Larnaca, normally Pezoporikos was the best, and sometime EPA – second. Alki played quite consistently in the First Division, but modestly. In 1976-77 they finished well – at 6th place, yet still behind both local rivals. The Cup they lusted after, hoping not only to come ahead of the rivals, but to beat the odds too – it was their 4th final and so far they lost three. May be the Cup will be theirs at last? Olympiakos was not without ambitions either – their best years were in the 1960s, when they won three championships, but by the mid-70s they sunk to the uncomfortable position of 3rd club in Nicosia. And there was no much hope to come above the local rivals APOEL and Omonia. The Cup Olympiakos so far never won. So it was a battle of 'third stringers', in which Olympiakos got the upper hand – they won the final 3-1.
Olympiakos has one of the strangest logos in the world: a tent. Originally, it was more than sports club – they had an orchestra, choir, and camping division. Social and cultural club more than purely sports club, but eventually only the tent in the logo remained from previous activities, particularly the camping division. Founded in 1931, Olympiakos is older than Omonia, but political affiliation made Omonia more popular and successful. But it did not matter in 1977 – the green and black clad boys triumphed with the Cup.

Lifting the Cypriot Cup for the first time. Little they knew... it was the last trophy Olympiakos won. Nothing else came into their hands up to 2010. May be in the future, who knows.