Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The 1970s were a decade of steady ascent of Greek football, culminating with Greece playing at 1980 European Championship finals. But there was dark side to Greek football, making it an enigma. Success and scandal went hand in hand, as if there was no way to better the game without illegal means. 1979-80 was no exception: the Federation announced that Greek football was to be professional , starting with the next championship. This decision immediately triggered a strike of the players. There were some bugging questions and unsolved to this very day problems, but the most immediate result was penalties. The decision of the Federation concerned only first division – the players of the second division felt unfairly treated and went on strike. Since the championship was nearing its end, the Federation decided to award wins to these clubs which fielded players in the last games. In case of both teams not showing up, the no-show game had no winner and nobody got points. Fair and simple? No... A glance of the final tables of the 2 groups of Second Division shows that only 1 of the 40 participating clubs finished without deducted points! 39 clubs had points deducted, ranging from 1 (Atromitos) to 11 (Levadiakos).  Perhaps nowhere in the world there was ever been such a dirty championship. The sole exception, therefore, deserves mentioning:
A.O. Vizas Megaron. They finished 2nd in the Southern Group of Second Division, unfortunately far behind the winners, so... fairplay did not pay out. The winners had 2 games in which they did not get points for failing to show up, plus 1 point deducted – and were promoted. 
 Well, that is almost all what is clear. The RSSSF website provides something like explaination: because of the strike, 'the last four days of the championship were not played. Not all teams went on strike, and these won their matches 2-0.' This explaination does not match deductions and awarded games: 4 days in practical terms means just one round. Yet, some teams are shown with more than one awarded game. May be what is meant is 'the last four rounds'? This doesn't tally either. Nothing is said about deductions – if we consider that actually teams were penalized with deuctions for not showing up, 4 rounds barely make sense – yet, short of justifying deductions of more than 8 points. Most likely teams were penalized for other infringements, which paints very unpleasant picture: 39 of 40 clubs were found guilty! Corruption of so vast scale is scarry even to think about it, immediately suggesting that it was not peculiar only to second division – at the end, the big clubs were untouchable... And because of that, the small fry was not really punished either – there had to be 2 promotions and with only one clean club in the Second Division... promotions went to the unclean. But this is not all.
 The strike itself triggers the question what was the status of Greek players until 1980? Amateurs? Impossible, because of the massive presence of foreign players: in the 1979-80 season Olympiakos had 8 foreigners! When foreigners were allowed to play in Greece is ever-lasting mystery – there were foreigners since the late 1950s, but officially even in the 1970s foreigners were not allowed... and fake documents were made to them, often changing the original names to Greek ones. But not every name was changed... 'Oriundi' rule had been applied for a long time: foreign players of Greek descent were considered domestic. This perhaps applied to Cypriots as well. Inventing 'Greek roots' helped bending the general rule of using foreign players in the 1970s: 2 per game. A glance at line-ups shows that on paper Greek clubs followed this rule (international games were different matter – UEFA had no rules about foreigners, so in the European torunaments not only the Greeks often used more foreigners than allowed by the domestic leagues). Many foreign players were fielded as Greeks – and this explains why Olympiakos had such a big number – but the mess was tremendous. Who was domestic and why? The German born Maik Galakos was listed as Greek in the Olympiakos squad – yet, when he played in West Germany, he was listed as German! At the same time Panathinaikos listed Helmut Kirisitz – seemingly, of Greek descent – as Austrian import. Yet, Panathinaikos also had a certain player named Niko Kovi, listed under Turkish nationality – not the first Turkish-born Greek, who came to Greece – and as a rule of thumb, getting Greek citizenship according to etnicity, the very reason for emigration.  But Olympiakos topped that: Christos Kaltsas, born 1956, is given as Romanian. Yes, he was born in Romania – but he did not play in Romania at all: his first club is a Greek one, and he joined it in 1973! From the dates, it is quite clear that he came to Greece as teenager, most likely his parents decided to return to their homeland. So, how was he a foreign player? Meantime some genuine foreigners took Greek citizenship (and some settled in Greece for the rest of their lives!) - naturalization is hardly ever shown in statistics: such players are listed as foreigners. Case in point: the Uruguayan born Julio Losada of Olympiakos. Contrary to his case is the one of Vassilis Hatzipanagis, biographically listed with dual citizenship – Greek and Soviet – but statistically given as domestic Greek player. The mess has one practical application, though: the foreigners were not amateurs. And if they were not, Greek stars were not either – Hatzipanagis always speaks about his restrictive contract with Iraklis, preventing him of playing for bigger clubs, including Arsenal (London). And get this: Iraklis was relegated at the end of 1979-80 season to the remaining non-professional Second Division! What was he in the next season? If amateur, what stopped him from moving to bigger club? All boils down to constant infringement and violation of rules and massive corruption, which was a public knowledge and the general attitude was to pretend not seeing it. So the championship ended with finals tables 'normalizing' the situation. 
Atromitos (Athens) won the Southern Group and was promoted to First Division. They got no points for 2 matches, apparently striking players did not show up, and 1 point deducted for something else. With such record, they finished 6 points ahead of clean Vizas (Megaron).
Panserraikos (Serres) won the Northern Group – they also failed to show up at 2 games and got no points and had 2 points deducted for who knows what. No worries... they still finished 8 points ahead of Niki Volou and moved up to top flight.