Fallen top flight clubs languishing in lower divisions
AGONAsport’s Nick Tsambouniaris delves into history and looks back on the forgotten clubs of Greek Football that are currently languishing in the lower divisions.
“Against modern football” has become somewhat of a cliche but it rings very true in this case. No matter how much we watch the UEFA Champions League for instance, the present and future without the past is nothing. There have been several clubs in Greece that once graced the top flight, but have since fallen by the wayside to languish in the lower divisions of Greek football. This has occurred for numerous different reasons depending on the clubs, as they could not compete financially or they are just poorly run.
Here are some fallen top-flight clubs languishing in the lower leagues.
Iraklis (Football League)
Without a doubt, one of the biggest clubs in Greek football - possibly the biggest outside the “Big-5’- and home of the great Vassilis Hatzipanagis. It has been downhill for the Thessaloniki-based club for some time now. After going on a great run at the back end of the 2016-17 Super League season, Iraklis finished in 12th spot but got relegated due to financial issues.
Last season, they got relegated back to the third tier of Greek football after being deducted three points for failing to pass an economic oversight process of the EPO. Sad times for a club which once won the Greek Cup, finished second in the top flight three times, and played a total of 14 games in the UEFA Cup.
Panachaiki (Super League 2)
Considered by many to be among the biggest in Greece, Panachaiki have struggled for many years but are now closer than ever in terms of obtaining promotion to the top flight. They have reached the semi-final stage of the Greek Cup twice and the quarter-final stage on ten occasions. They also made history by becoming the first-ever club outside of Athens or Thessaloniki to represent Greece in Europe, courtesy of their participation in the 1973-74 UEFA Cup. Lean years and several relegations have been put aside, and a strong model for success is in place. They finished 3rd two seasons ago and fifth last season. A Patra-based club in the top flight is long overdue.
PAS Giannina (Super League 2)
Commonly referred to as the “Ajax of Epirus,” the club from Epirus just got relegated from the Super League to the second division after a near decade-long stay in the top flight (as they managed in the 1970’s with an eye-catching brand of football). During this time, they became giant killers and proved to be very difficult to play against. They played in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers in 2016-17 and boasted an array of fifth and sixth placed finishes.
Former players in recent seasons alone include Leonardo Koutris, Dimitris Kolovetsios, Charis Charisis, Pedro Conde, Noe Acosta, Dimitris Eleftheropoulos, Konstantinos Mavropanos, and Giourkas Seitaridis, to name a few. Backed by a strong following, they will be hoping for an immediate promotion back to the top.
Panserraikos (Gamma Ethniki)
A cult club in the region, with a decent-sized fan base and liked by many. They were last in the top flight in the 2010-11 season and made the semi-finals of the 2008-09 Greek Cup but have been struggling ever since. They finished third in last season’s Gamma Ethniki (then third tier).
Kalamata (Gamma Ethniki)
Described by many some time ago as “one of the hardest away matches of the season,” opponents had to play at their very best to win at Kalamata’s stadium in Messinia. They competed in the top flight on seven occasions, with the last time being the 2000-01 season. They have produced an array of quality Greeks over the years such as Nikos Lymberopoulos, Panagiotis Bachramis, Fanouris Goundoulakis, and Nikos Georgeas, On top of this, they once boasted well-known Ghanaians such as Derek Boateng, Samuel Johnson, Peter Ofori-Quaye and Ebenezer Hagan. They just missed out on promotion to the Football League this past season and will compete in next year’s Gamma Ethniki.
Fostiras (Local Division)
Now playing in the local Athenian Championship, semi-professional Fostiras once defeated Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, and AEK after the Second World War in the 1940’s to earn the nickname “Slayer of the Giants.” The team from the Athenian suburb of Tavros last competed in the top flight in 1973-74, yet left their mark.
Kavala (Football League)
Clearly, the manner in which they last got relegated from the Super League in the 2010-11 season was not a good one, but they are a decent sized club in a strong footballing region. They finished seventh in that season but got relegated after being found guilty of match-fixing (the infamous Koriopolis scandal). Along with Olympiacos Volou, they were stripped of their professional license and relegated to Delta Ethniki. They finished first in last season’s Gamma Ethniki group and will compete in next year;s Football League.
Doxa Dramas (Super League 2)
Currently in the second tier, Doxa Dramas have a strong following and once boasted quality Greek players such as Takis Loukanidis, Kyriakos Tohouroglou, and Giorgos Georgiadis. They are considered among the most historic clubs in Greece and were one of the founding members of the Super League.
Proodeftiki (Local Divisions)
Never a spectacular football team that caught the eye, however, they knew how to get results and were liked by the neutral supporter. They also once had an intimidating home stadium. The club boasts 15 participations in the top flight, with the last one coming in 2003-04. Tough tackling centre-backs and a no-nonsense approach led to the saying that it was “safer to be in nearby Korydallos, than on the pitch in Nikaia.” Former notable Greeks include Vangelis Moras, Kostas Frantzeskos, Dionisis Chiots, and Dimitris Eleftheropoulos. Their best top-flight finish came in 1963-64 when they finished fourth. This past season they finished fifth in Group 5 of the Gamma Ethniki and were relegated to the local divisions.
Ionikos (Football League)
Also based in the Athenian suburb of Nikaia, Ionikos once participated in the UEFA Cup, was a finalist in the Greek Cup, and finished fifth in the top flight twice. From 1989-2007, they spent a whopping 16 years in the top flight out of the 18. They just got promoted to the Football League via the playoffs and hope to embark on another memorable run up the Greek football pyramid.
Egaleo (Football League)
Another Athens-based club that once participated in the UEFA Cup, Egaleo have been struggling in the lower leagues following their triple relegation in 2006-07 from the top flight all the way down to the local leagues. They just earnt promotion back to the third tier.
Ergotelis (Super League 2)
It was only in the 2013-14 season, that the Cretans achieved their best-ever finish - seventh in the Super League. Back in 2008-09, the club defeated Panathinaikos and Olympiacos in the same season. Ergotelis have produced several Greeks such as Vassilis Koutsianikoulis, Andreas Bouchalakis, and Nikos Karelis, to name a few.
It has been a long way back (it was thought they would go down a similar path to AEK in dropping to the amateur levels to rebuild, but instead opted to stay in the second tier), but they have steadied in this division and are ready to mount a challenge for promotion to resume their fierce rivalry with OFI.
Diagoras (Football League)
Based on the Dodecanese island of Rhodes, Diagoras once made the semi-finals of the Greek Cup, losing to OFI. They played in the top flight from 1986-1989 but it has been slim pickings since then. They were relegated to the amateur leagues in 2012 by the Greek Professional Sports Committee but have steadily rebuilt and recently earnt promotion to the Football League via the playoffs.
Apollon Pontou (Super League 2)
Based in Kalamaria and founded by Pontian refugees, Apollon Pontou have been in and out of the top flight for some time - they were regulars in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, and again in the early 2000’s. They earnt promotion from the Gamma Ethniki in 2016-17 and have undergone a rebrand and changed their name (from Apollon Kalamarias to Apollon Pontou), in a bid to go back to their roots. They are currently in the second tier.
Olympiacos Volou (Football League)
They made it back to the top flight in 2009-10 after a 20-year absence but it was short-lived due to the Koriopolis match-fixing scandal. They made it to the playoff round of the UEFA Europa League in 2011-12 and were ready to face PSG but were excluded due to the aforementioned issue. This rocked the club for some time and they were inactive for years, but are now back in the Football League.
Niki Volou (Gamma Ethniki)
Founded by refugees from Asia Minor, the club has gone and up down the Greek football pyramid. After a 48-year absence from the top flight, they participated in the 2014-15 season but finished on -6 and were relegated due to financial issues. They are yet to fully recover and are currently in the fourth tier.