Friday Frappé: When will European Football get an all-Greek derby?
In this week’s Friday Frappé, AGONAsport’s Peter Katsiris takes a look at the all-Greek affair between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos in the EuroLeague and the dream for an all-Greek derby one day in European football…
Watch LIVE from AGONAsport: Olympiacos - Panathinaikos, Greek SuperLeague eternal enemies derby on Sunday, November 11th. Details here.
This week’s showcase fixture in the EuroLeague features Panathinaikos hosting Olympiacos at the OAKA Olympic Indoor Hall as the two giants of Greek basketball go head-to-head with more than just local bragging rights on the line.
Not only titans of Greek basketball, both Olympiacos and Panathinaikos are giants of the European game as demonstrated by their numerous European titles and trips to the Final Four.
Perhaps the landscape of European basketball has changed slightly in recent years, which means neither Olympiacos nor Panathinaikos are the overwhelming favourites to win the title. Nevertheless, both sides are still considered as contenders for the EuroLeague crown and Friday’s showdown in Athens is more than just another derby fixture.
While it’s not the first time, or the last time, that the ‘Derby of the Eternal Enemies’ will take centerstage in the EuroLeague, it’s certainly far off from the reality in football where two Greek clubs are generally longshots to make deep runs in the competition let alone be drawn against one another.
It has been 12 years since two Greek clubs have featured concurrently in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League (AEK and Olympiacos during the 2006/2007 season). While it is more of a common occurrence in the UEFA Europa League, or the previously named UEFA Cup, the lack of Greek representation in the knockout rounds over the years has never offered a threat of a European edition of any Greek derby.
In the eight times that Greece had at least two representatives in the group stage of the Champions League, never once has more than one team progressed past the first phase. Not even during the 2003/2004 season when Greek representation was at an all-time high as Greece boasted three representatives (AEK, Olympiacos, and Panathinaikos).
It’s actually a rather similar story in the Europa League, despite regular occurrences of more than one Greek club in the group stage of the competition. While the group stage and first few knockout rounds ensure that clubs from the same country are kept apart in the draw, multiple Greek clubs have never reached the latter stages of either the Europa League or the UEFA Cup. In fact, the deepest part of Europa League or the UEFA Cup that has featured multiple Greek clubs is the Round of 32, or the first knockout round, which also features clubs parachuting from the Champions League group stage.
Since the adoption of the group stage format during the 2004/2005 season of the UEFA Cup, only on four occasions have multiple Greek clubs reached the Round of 32 but never once has more than one club ever progressed further. Perhaps the closest opportunity was when Olympiacos and Panathinaikos parachuted into the UEFA Cup Round of 32 in 2004/2005. Despite Olympiacos beating Sochaux 2-0 over two legs, Panathinaikos were edged just narrowly by Sevilla 2-1 on aggregate and the Trifylli missed out on passage to the Round of 16.
While it seems like an all-Greek affair in either the Champions League or the Europa League is still a longshot, we can at least enjoy two Greek heavyweights going shot-for-shot in the EuroLeague as Olympiacos and Panathinaikos continue to be key contenders in European basketball.