Thyella Rafinas to Dynamo Kyiv in four years
AEK Athens might be feeling in the doldrums after an agonising UEFA Europa League exit to Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine, but the Enosis’ loyal fans have a lot to be proud of. In an amazing four-year transformation, AEK have gone from a Gamma Ethniki outfit to a highly respected club involved in European knockout football.
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Eleven years ago, AEK were enjoying life in the big time, competing in the UEFA Champions League and even beating the mighty AC Milan in Athens. However, in June 2013, a horrible financial mess resulted in the club starting from scratch in the Gamma Ethniki, Greece’s third tier of football. To be honest, if you had told any AEK fan that in 2018 the team would be a whisker away from the Last 16 of a European tournament, they would have struggled to believe you.
The reality is that AEK could, and should, have qualified for the Europa League Last 16. Yes, Dynamo Kyiv boast huge experience on the continental stage, but AEK dominated large parts of both matches. Had Masoud Shojaei not hacked wide of a completely open net in Ukraine, one of the worst misses you will ever see, AEK would surely have seen off a dogged Dynamo Kyiv side. Nevertheless, despite the loss, head coach Manolo Jimenez and his troops expressed their pride after the final whistle, rightly noting that heads should be held high.
If AEK are disappointed today, then all they need to do is think about what happened on February 22, 2014. While this year AEK were taking on Ukrainian giants Dynamo Kyiv at the huge Olimpiyskiy Stadium, the team played against lowly Thyella Rafinas on the same day in 2014. The fact that the Enosis are so bitter about the loss in Ukraine shows just how far this club have come in such a short space of time.
Interestingly, AEK lost that particular match against Thyella Rafinas, going down to a last-gasp goal from Giorgos Mitropoulos. Let’s take a look at what AEK’s former Gamma Ethniki strugglers in that game are up to now:
Ilias Vouras: AEK’s starting goalkeeper in that loss to Thiella Rafinas, the 29-year old is now on the books of Doxa Dramas in the Football League. Was actually an Enosis player until 2017.
Stavros Petravkis: Last season, the Rhodes born left-back helped Lamia earn promotion to the Super League, but he is now a teammate of Vouras at Doxa.
Stavros Stathakis: The 30-year old was last recorded on Asteras Amaliades’ team, a club which ply their trade in the Gamma Ethniki. Scored two goals for AEK.
Sokratis Tsoukalas: Never went on to compete at the top level for a sustained period of time. At the moment, he represents Asteras Vlachioti.
Vangelis Platellas: Without doubt, the tricky winger is one of the most talented Greek players not with a Super League club. Platellas was an AEK player until last season, then moving to Aris Thessaloniki. A real creative threat for the opposition.
Vasilios Rovas: Now 34, the midfielder is also a player of Gamma Ethniki club Asteras Amaliades. Racked up 38 league appearances for the Enosis without finding the net.
Dimitris Grontis: He’s still only 23 years of age with his whole career ahead of him. At the moment, Grontis plays in the Football League with Trikala, but he made his professional debut with AEK back in 2012.
Dimitris Anakoglou: Keeps Platellas company at Aris. On Wednesday, the midfielder returned from a serious injury and participated in a friendly match with the Thessaloniki club. Scored 13 goals for AEK in league competition.
Miguel Angel Cordero: In August 2016, the Spaniard left AEK and returned to his homeland, signing a contract with Gimnastic. Right now, the central midfielder earns his wages at fellow Spanish club FC Cartegena.
Ivan Brecevic: Sadly, a nasty injury suffered with AEK in the Football League put paid to any hopes of staying with the Enosis when achieving promotion to the Super League. As a free-agent, he transferred to NK Buje in Croatia’s lower leagues.
Alexandre D’Acol: Brazilian born forward D’Acol tried his luck in Scotland with Hamilton between 2015 and 2017, but it didn’t work out for him. Another who now plays for Trikala in the Football League.
Nikolaos Georgeas: Finished his playing career with AEK in 2015. Joined the club’s academy staff, where he is now an assistant manager.
Renaldo Rama: Born in Albania, the winger is now languishing in the Piraeus championship with Ampelakiakos.