Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Panathinaiko’s History in five points

Panathinaikos visited White Hart Lane on the 6th December 2012. In the Official Matchday Programme, the North London side gave the Greek team’s brief history in five points, giving some key moments from Panathinaiko’s past that helped shape its history.
Birth of a club. Panathinaikos have a history to match any club in Greece. With 20 league titles to their name, they are one of the most successful clubs in Europe when it comes to domestic achievements, giving them a league title every five years of their existence on average. The club was born 104 years ago in 1908 thanks to the vision of Giorgos Kalafatis after he and another 40 athletes broke away from Panellinios Gymnastikos Syllogos following the club’s decision to close down its football team. In 1912, they appointed Oxford University athlete John Campbell as manager making him the first foreigner to coach a team in Greece. The Englishman brought with him new ways of thinking and within a couple of years the club was among the best in the country as they excelled. Since that time, Panathinaikos have become an institution of Greek football, although they had to wait until 1930 for their first national championship.

Euro Heartbreak. Their greatest moment in European football came just over 40 years ago at Wembley Stadium. Their opponents that day were Dutch giants Ajax who boasted the talents of a certain Johann Cruyff within their ranks. In the Panathinaikos dug out was a legend of the game in Ferenc Puskas and the Hungarian had proved as influential as the club’s manager as he had for his country and Real Madrid, helping inspire the Greek side to their one and only European final appearance. The Dutch proved too much for them on the night, through, as Ajax lifted the trophy with a 2-0 victory. That said, it is still a final that holds significance for what was a talented Panathinaikos side lead by a manager who was one of the true greats.

Reds End Euro Dream. It was 14 years before Panathinaikos’ fans could dream of European glory again, but this time they came face to face with another dominant force on the continent, Liverpool. The Reds were in the middle of the greatest period of their history when the Greeks met them in the 1984-85 semi-finals, having lifted the European Cup four times in eight years. They were reigning champions and although Panathinaikos had defeated the likes of Feyenoord and Gothenburg en route to their meeting at Anfield in the first leg, they were no match for the rampant Reds. Panathinaikos lost 4-0 in the first leg at Anfield and Liverpool finished the job with a 1-0 win away in Greece. Similar to their 1971 final appearance, reaching these semi-finals was another fine achievement for the club.  Liverpool went on to face Juventus, losing in the now infamous Heysel final of 1985.

Euro Vision Shines Bright. For the superstitious fans among the Juventus faithful, Panathinaikos must certainly have earned a soft spot. The Old Lady has won the European Cup twice and on each occasion their opponents in the final faced the Greek outfit in the semi-finals. This time it was Ajax who overcame Panathinaikos to reach the final, but while the club will take little solace from being Juventus’ lucky charm, fans continue to remain proud of their team’s efforts to come close to another final appearance in Europe’s premier club competition. In the modern era, where financial clout can often lay its part, it makes their achievement all the more impressive as they faced some of Europe’s toughest club of the time to reach the last four. A first leg victory in Amsterdam over a team including a young Edgar Davids and Patrick Kluivert had Greek fans dreaming, but it soon became a nightmare whey they lost 3-0 at home as Ajax made their way to Rome’s Olympic Stadium to face Juve, who would eventually be crowned European champions by virtue of penalties.
Power to the People. The visit of Panathinaikos gives us the opportunity to witness the impact of a fan-owned club at first hand after the Panathinaikos Alliance 2012 became the club’s majority shareholder in July this year. The alliance now boasts 8.578 members and includes some current and former players. Their aims is to restore the club as the number one in Greece, but given their European success in the past 40 years, also have ambitions to return to the Champions League and go one better than the class of ’71 by lifting the famous trophy.

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