Monday, March 31, 2014

Greece- slowly rising, very slowly and not all that smoothly. Most of the league was not strong, scandals were frequent, but improvement was noticeable. It was still the time of heroes – long lasting veterans, who more or less elevated Greek football. They were around since the early 1960s and made astonishing records: 4 players had over 400 league appearances after this season. Mimis Domazos was with 490 and Mimis Papaioannou – 458. Neither was quitting yet. The bright side had its counterpart as well – there was mid-season players strike. The clubs fielded their foreigners – for some reason excluded from the strike of the Greek players – and 'amateurs'. The definition is foggy – Greek football became officially professional in 1978-79, if some sources are to be trusted. But players were paid for long time already and the strike was never called anything but strike of professional player. The clubs fielded largely junior team players, luckily for only one championship round. Records of the season specifically separate the group of 'amateurs' used by the clubs and let leave it at that. Corruption was also present – Veria was caught trying to fix matches and 10 points were deducted from their record as a punishment. One may wonder what would have happened if one of the big clubs was found guilty... may be an meaningless question. Apart from that, there were some good news too – the Yugoslavian striker Dusan Bajevic joined AEK (Athens). 
Bajevic, 28-years old, was one of the best Yugoslavian centre-forwards of the 1970s. National team regular for years, the star of the very strong Velez (Mostar), prolific scorer, and part of the good Yugoslavian team at the 1974 World Cup finals. The second real star after the Argentinian 'La Bruja' Veron to come play in Greece. It was even a bit strange – a player of his caliber was expected to join stronger West European league, but a shift was slowly happening – the Greek clubs started buying more Europeans than anonymous South Americans: Yugoslavians, Danes, the odd West German. Foreign coaches were continuously hired too. The top clubs at least were getting stronger.
The positive changes did not yet spread to lower echelons of Greek football.
AS Rodos won the Southern Second Division, and
AE Larisa won the Northern Second Division. Happy to be promoted, but neither club was strong addition to First league.
The newcomers were replacing the unlucky outsiders of First Division:
Veria was last with 18 points – their efforts of fixing matches were transparent enough: to escape relegation. But even if 10 points were not deducted from their record, Veria was still to be relegated.
AO Pierikos (Katerini) finished 17th with 26 points. A little unlucky, for there was large group of clubs concerned only with survival – up to the 9th placed. The luckiest ended with 30 points. However, the relegated were not to be missed.
Only one club of the bulk was obviously improving: OFI Crete.
Only two years earlier the islanders were playing in second division. Historically, OFI were nobodies – they had short first division spell in the 1960s and that was all. Now they had ambition, perhaps money, and may be good organization. Fans turning historians boast that OFI was the club to be... young players from all Greece were eager to join the club. Fancy imagination – no future stars of Greek football are founded in their 1977-78 roster. Even their two Yugoslavians are anonymous – Voukman and Ivanta (the name is clearly changed, may be to make it easier for Greek pronouncing). The only relatively known name is Kostas Liolios, acquired from Olympiakos for this season. But the team was going up – they finished 8th, becoming one of the stable clubs.
The bulk of the league was topped by PAS Giannina at 5th place.
They were running strong thanks to their large group of South Americans and the great mystery around them: players with frequently changing names, one year with their original ones, the next with Greek names, called in the same time 'Argentine-Italians', something not giving them even Greek roots, but never mind. They were for his club and even more. Good, but not good enough to challenge the big clubs.