-- The Greek Football League Begins...FINALLY! --
The Greek Football League, or second division, is FINALLY underway and AGONAsport.com brings you a preview for the 2016-2017 season. This year’s Football League will include historic and successful clubs looking to return back to the top flight as others hope to be the surprise team of the season. For full coverage of this year’s Greek Football League visits AGONAsport’s Football League homepage.
The Greek Football League was suppose to begin in early September but due to many, many, many delays it finally kicked off on Sunday. The inability to find a major sponsor for the league, which is needed to support the clubs financially throughout the season, was a major delay to kickoff. Additionally, many of the stadiums did not have closed circuit television (CCTV) installed which is something that the Deputy Minister of Athletics, Stavros Kontonis, demanded from every club. Neither of those problems have been resolved and it seemed that all it took for the league to start was the resignation of the Football League’s President, Stelio Sfakianakis, which came earlier in the week.
The Football League will follow the exact same format as last season and will consist of 18 teams. Each team will play the other twice, home and away, and the top two clubs at the end of the season will earn promotion to the Superleague. On the other end, the bottom four teams will be relegated to the Gamma Ethniki (3rd Division).
Remained from Last Season: Acharnaikos, Apollon Smyrnis, Panegialios, Chania, Trikala, Lamia, Kissamikos, Anagennisi Karditsas, Panserraikos, Agrotikos Asteras, Panelefsiniakos, Kallithea
Newly Promoted from Gamma Ethniki: Aris, Sparti, Aiginiakos, OFI
Relegated from Superleague: Kalloni, Panthrakikos
The Favorites For Promotion
Aris: There is no doubt that Aris is the clear favorite to win the league and make their return to the Superleague. One of Greece’s most successful clubs was relegated to the Gamma Ethniki (3rd division) in 2014 due to financial problems and they hope that this will be their final year away from the top flight. They are coached by Nikos Anastopoulos and house players that could easily compete in the Superleague such as Rafik Djebbour, Andreas Tatos, Neto, Sokratis Dioudis, Christos Bourbos, and Nikos Karabelas.
OFI Crete: Another historic Greek club, OFI will be in the running to gain promotion back to the Superleague. Like Aris, OFI fell to the Greek 3rd Division due to financial trouble and gained promotion to the Football League on the final matchday of last season. They are coached by Nikos Nioplias and he will look to lead his side back to the Superleague.
Apollon Smyrnis: Apollon Smyrnis round off the three favorites to gain promotion to next year’s Superleague. The Kyanolefki finished 4th in last year’s Football League and will use last year’s experience to finish in the top 2 this season. For Apollon Smyrnis to succeed this season, they will first need to forget their current internal problems that surround the club. On Sunday, they pulled off a great comeback victory to defeat Kallithea 3-2.
The Possible Promotion Contenders
Trikala: Trikala has a great roster, consisting of players with good individual talent and lots of experience which will hopefully lead the team to Greece’s top flight. Additionally, the club is backed by their faithful supporters and like last year, Trikala will be in the mix for promotion to the SuperLeague.
Lamia: Lamia is a “silent” power in the Football League and is more than capable of finishing in the top 2. They have shown in recent years that they can beat any of their opponents in the league and with a good campaign they can hope for a return to the Superleague.
Sparti: Under their new owner, Dimitris Gianakopoulos (also owns Panathinaikos BC), Sparti has set their goals high for this Football League season, despite being one of the newly promoted sides from the Gamma Ethniki. It is too early to tell, however the Lakones could make some noise this season. Their main goal will be to establish themselves in the second division by comfortably staying away from the relegation zone. However, with a good start they could surprisingly be in the promotion talks for a THIRD straight season. On Sunday, they defeated Panthrakikos 2-1 to begin their season on a positive note.
Panegialios: Like Sparti, Panegialios will first aim to stay away from the relegation zone and hope for the best from there. They have a rejuvenated squad looking to make their mark on the league and with a good string of results they could find themselves near the top of the table. In their opening match, they played to a goalless draw at home to Chania.