The State of Greek Club Football
May 27, 2019
Super League Souroti
Most Championships: Olympiacos, 44
Last 5 Winners: PAOK (18/19), AEK (17/18), Olympiakos (16/17, 15/16, 14/15)
UEFA Ranking: 14th
Highest Ranked Club: Olympiakos, 35th
What is the current state of Greek football following all the well-publicised crowd trouble?
It’s the same story every year. Nobody believes that this serious problem has been disappeared in Greek football. Every year we hear about measures and solutions to this scourge but nothing happens.
In fact, football clubs often push the blame on to the police so they can deflect from their responsibility. I believe that private interests and political decision-making might be intertwined and therefore it’s not putting a stop to the violence. Ιn fact, the clubs are supporting their ultras.
How would you describe the Greek sides’ performances over the last 10 years in European competition?
Not impressive. It’s not like in 80′ or 90’s when mainly Panathinaikos dominating reaching the semi-finals of UEFA’s competitions (Champions League and UEFA Cup). In the last 10 years Olympiacos have qualified twice for the last 16 of Champions League (2010, 2014), Panathinaikos once (2009), and also in the Europa League Olympiacos reached the Round of 16 twice (2012 and 2017).
Not a big deal for a country that was crowned as European Champion in 2004.
The Greek league has been very much dominated by Olympiakos in recent years. Has this been a help or a hindrance to Greek football? And why is that trend changing now?
Both. Olympiacos thanks to its reputation and its consistent presence in Champions League lured and signed world class players like Giovanni, Rivaldo, Saviola, Oscar Cardozo, Karembeu, Yaya Toure, Abidal. Olympiacos has been crowned Greek champions 16 times since 2000. At the same time, they gained the money from the Champions League something that prevented the other big Greek clubs from making progress and having an equal budget to compete with Olympiakos.
The good news is that the last two years AEK won their first championship title after 24 years and this season PAOK celebrates their first title since 1985! So at the moment there are three clubs that could race for the championship, because Panathinaikos due to financial problems is based on a roster with many teenagers.
This is happening because there’s a lack of serious investors in Greek football. Greek football is a toxic place for somebody to invest. I mean there’s corruption (at least not in the same level like the previous years), violence and hooliganism, poor refereeing performances (we launch .VAR starting from Cup Final and foreign refs), fixed games and also besides Olympiacos, PAOK, AEK, Panathinaikos and Aris there’s no large fan base for the rest of the teams. So only Marinakis (Olympiacos), Savvidis (PAOK) and Melissanidis (AEK) are able to strengthen their teams to aim for titles.
PAOK have gained experience and stability. Greek-Russian magnate Ivan Savvidis is a passionate president who spends tons of money in order to see PAOK in Champions League group. This the target after the championship. Savvidis has huge influence and a big influence in Thessaloniki. His influence has been recognised not only in Greek football but in politics as well. In Greece football and politics are very close. All the players of PAOK see him as a father figure. He is very close to the players and he can guarantee the future of the club by offering the biggest contracts in Greek football. Also the son of Mircea Lucescu, Razvan is doing a great job. PAOK has the potential to stay at the top for many years.
What would be seen as a successful year in Europe for Greek fans?
In the Champions League the obvious goal is to participate in the CL groups. If a Greek team qualified in Round of 16 that would be a success. The same does for Europe League, only once in the last 10 years have Olympiacos has reached the last 16.
Do most of the country get behind the Greek sides playing in Europe or is there a lot of tribalism still apparent?
Unfortunately, there’s still tribalism. The fans of Panathinaikos will not be happy when Olympiacos win in European matches. The same goes for Olympiacos fans. They don’t want to see Panathinaikos to succeed. Only for lower clubs besides the big four (PAOK, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK) the situation is different and will the football fans be supporting them.
Do clubs take the Europa League seriously in Greece?
Yes, they take it seriously because they believe that it can bring success. At least they try to reach the group stages. It’s not like the Spanish or English clubs that they are using bench players with limited playing time.
How do you think the Europa League 2 will affect Greek sides’ EL performances and what has been the reaction to the formation of the competition in Greece?
It will affect because Champions League will be a closed lobby and there will no be room for Greek clubs. If Greece drops to 16th position in the UEFA rankings it will become difficult to compete in the CL or EL. So it depends on the results of the Greek clubs in the following years with regard to what will actually happen. The reception is not good though because the chances for European progression in the major two tournaments will now become even harder.
What would you like to see UEFA do to level the playing field more for small European sides?
UEFA have to implement more strict rules for UEFA fair play. The difference between rich and poor clubs is getting bigger every year. It’s hard for non English, Spanish, German, and some Italian and French clubs to compete them. There are so many foreign investors mainly from Asia that own the big clubs so there’s no chance for other clubs to face them. The European Federation also must give some motivations for small European sides. It’s too difficult for a medium club to pass the qualifications rounds in order to play in CL groups.
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Author: Tom Mortimer
Tom is the editor at Betting Circle and has been creating online content for over 10 years. Tom mainly writes about sport and gambling, but every now and then also delves into fleshier subjects like politics and psychology. When he was 18 he created HungarianFootball.com and over the last few years he's written on a freelance basis for ESPN, WorldSoccer, Goal.com, among many others.