The Story of Football in Greece: The Legend of 2004 and everything else


Remember the EURO 2004 in Portugal? For football fans in Greece, that tournament
was THE TOURNAMENT. It was the tournament where the biggest Greek
football legends of all time were born. But what is there besides the EURO 2004? What else did Greek football accomplish? Welcome once again to tracksuitTV, ladies
and gentlemen. So, first let’s take a look at the country
of Tzatziki, great salad and this weird feta cheese. Located in southeastern Europe, the country
of Greece, also known as Hellas, has a population of around 11 million. It is located at the crossroads between Europe,
Asia and Africa, which probably contributed to the fact that it became the cradle of Western
civilization. The Greek brought us many, many great things. From democracy, to philosophy, the Olympic
Games, literature, drama, theatre, Alexander the Great and especially science and mathematics,
without ancient Greece the world would be very different. Today, Greece is a developed and advanced
high-income country with a very high standard of living (yes despite the recent economic
crisis, just look at other countries of this world). Greece’s capital is of course Athens, which
is also where the national team historically played most of its matches. For the most part Greece didn’t have a specific
national stadium where they would play, but alternated between several different ones. Recently however, the home of Olympiacos FC,
the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, near Athens, became kind of the home ground. The history of the Greek national team is
a very interesting one. Until the EURO 1980, where they were eliminated
in the group stage, Greece failed to qualify for a single tournament. The country’s first World Cup was the 1994
edition in the United States where they also went out in the group stage. After that, wondrous things happened. After ten long years, Greece finally qualified
for another major tournament, the EURO 2004 in Portugal, and it is Greece’s triumph at
this tournament which represents the pinnacle of the country’s footballing achievements
as well as a huge source of national pride. The tournament started spectacularly for Otto
Rehhagel’s team as Greece shocked the world by winning the opening match of the tournament
against the Portuguese hosts. After that, a draw against Spain and a loss
against Russia narrowly secured the quarterfinals for Greece. There, Angelos Charisteas secured Greece’s
win against the very strong French team. The whole country was already in a state of
euphoria, when Greece met the Czech Republic in the semifinals and won by a goal of Traianos
Dellas in extra time. The opponent in the grand final was to be
Portugal, again. The biggest fairytale of international football
was written on the 4th of July 2004 in Lisbon, as the fanatic Greek team again won against
the Portuguese hosts and became European Champions. Angelos Charisteas with a goal in the 57th
minute became king of the Greek people and send his country into delirium. I truly wonder if something like that can
ever happen again. After the EURO 2004, Greek football became
stronger and more consistent. The national side qualified for the following
two EUROs, as well as two World Cups and although they couldn’t repeat the legend of 2004,
it seems like Greek football is on a good path now. If you talk about Greek football legends,
there is only one possible choice. The whole team of 2004. Greece went into the tournament without any
superstars, at all. There were some good players, but for the
average football fan their names didn’t mean very much. The star of this team, was the team. Led by German coach Otto Rehhagel, who is
now a god in Greece, Nikopolidis, Seitaridis, Kapsis, Dellas, Fyssas, Katsouranis, Karagounis,
Zagorakis, Basinas, Charisteas, Giannakopoulos, Vryzas and all the others in the squad made
the impossible, possible. The nominally first countrywide championship
in Greece was organized between 1905 and 1912. In reality however, this championship was
a local tournament among clubs from Athens and Piraeus. Then after the Balkan Wars and World War I,
two football associations were formed in Greece, one organizing a football league in Athens
and Piraeus, and one doing the same in Thessaloniki. In 1923, a Greek Champion was determined by
a play-off game between the champions of these two leagues. Peiraikos Syndesmos won 3-1 against Aris Thessaloniki. This format was however never again repeated. In 1927, the first official national championship
was organized in the form of a round-robin tournament between the champions of the three
governing bodies. Aris Thessaloniki won, finishing ahead of
Ethnikos Piraeus and Atromitos. This national championship was set up again
in 1929, and over the next years evolved into a tournament in which multiple teams took
part. Still, these teams had to qualify for the
national championship through their local football competitions. This lasted until 1959 when the the Alpha
Ethniki – the precursor of the current Superleague – was set up as a national tournament. Counting all the titles from 1927, Olympiacos
Piraeus is the most successful club in Greece with 44 titles, followed by Panathinaikos
with 20 and AEK Athens with 12 titles. Although Greek clubs had some great European
performances over the years, Panathinaikos is the only club to have reached a European
final. In 1971 they lost the European Cup final against
Ajax at Wembley Stadium.

About the Author: Garret Beatty

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