Panathinaikos Have A Future
Despite the well-documented troubles the club faces with its finances and short-term future, the youth teams of Panathinaikos are succeeding in every possible way at unimaginable levels.
As previously reported, the U20 side leads the competition heading into the new year, but this success has trickled down to all levels with the U17 and U15 teams also leading their respective competitions. In addition to being the competition frontrunners, each of the 3 sides is yet to taste a single defeat.
Baring in mind the off-field turmoil the club is engulfed in, it is remarkable to say the least, but when you hear from those involved in the Panathinaikos Academy you get a feeling it is no fluke. Former Panathinaikos player and member of Greece’s all-conquering Euro 2004 squad Takis Fyssas is the man in charged of all youth departments at the club acting in the role of technical director. Along with his assistants, Fyssas has scouted some of the best young talent across Greece and brought it to the club.
Fyssas stressed that the job is only half done and the aim is to “continue at the same pace until the end of the season”. This humility and modesty is echoed by the two longest-serving academy coaches Kostas Fratzeskos and Kostas Tasaris, with Fratzeskos stating that the team “strives to have reach its goals as one, and is not focused on the individual”. With this team-first mentality in mind, the U20 team now sits on 39 points at the halfway mark of the season with 12 wins and 3 draws, 5 points ahead of second placed Olympiakos since the postponed fixture against Platanias has now taken place with the Greens winning 4-1 winners. Tasaris echoed these sentiments by giving an insight into how a winning identity was established and what it means to represent Panathinaikos, stating “Panathinaikos means passion”.
The U17 team is on 33 points after 13 games, 4 ahead of Olympiakos who have a game in hand. Big things are also tipped to come from this side as the club has tied up 7 of the most promising youngsters on contracts. Coach Sotiris Sylaidopoulos emphasised the team needs to “remain humble, keep on learning and continue to cherish what they love doing”.
In the shortened U15 format, the Greens sit on 21 points after 9 games, 2 ahead of Atromitos. Coach Thomas Mavroudis stated that there is “a lot of talent across all three age groups and that they are succeeding in spite of all the off-field difficulties they face”. He went on to say that “it is not an accident the team is undefeated”.
If the club can avoid a disaster off the field in the interim, it is hoped a core group of these youth players step up and deliver the results fan crave. Having a Greek core promoted from within would help in so many ways as the club would save on transfer fees and would already have a group of hungry, Greek players who understand the weight of the Panathinaikos shirt. This process can begin in the second half of the season where it is expected several players will either be moved on due to poor attitude or in a bid to bring about more funds to pay the debts off. Dimitris Emmanoulidis, Christos Kountouriotis and Giannis Bouzoukis are scoring for fun at youth level, and have already received their debuts. This is coupled with other youngsters such as Tasos Chatzigiovannis, Stefanos Evangelou and Sotiris-Pantelis Pispas also earning more playing time following their respective debuts last season.