OFI’s great Eugene Gerards honored in Crete
It was a special day in Heraklion, as former OFI Crete head coach Eugene Gerards’ hugely successful career with the Greek club was celebrated in style. Plenty of Greek football legends came together in Crete, honouring Gerards’ incredible achievements with OFI which saw him stay at the helm for 15 years between 1985 and 2000.
Gerards is now an ill, frail 77 year old man in a wheelchair, but OFI will never forget just what the Dutchman did for the club. He won the 1987 Greek Cup for OFI, with the team going on to compete in European competition. During his 15 years in charge, OFI consistently challenged at the top of the Greek standings, regularly beating the likes of Panathinaikos and Olympiacos. After finishing fourth in 2000, Gerards decided to call it a day and retired from the OFI bench.
To mark his legendary status in Heraklion, plenty of legends gathered to participate in a special charity match. A number of well-known players as Pavlopoulos, Stavrakakis, Dedis, Vavoulas, Sifakis, Goulis and Juganovic all participated for the Gerards Friends Team, with all of them being nurtured by the Dutchman at different stages during their careers.
Euro 2004 legends including Nikopolidis, Kapsis, Karagounis, Giannakopoulos, Tsiartas and Basinas formed the “opponents”, but the result on the pitch mattered little. Gerards Friends eventually won the exhibition game 4:0, in front of a packed stadium which was lit up by passionate OFI supporters who turned out to show their appreciation for the club legend.
Katerina Papadaki, Gerards’ wife, shared her emotions surrounding the event. “It’s something which I wanted to do for many years, because this man deserves it,” exclaimed Papadaki. “The love coming from his ex-players is huge, everyone in the stadium loves him. When we spent two difficult weeks in hospital, I told him about this day, and it kept him going.”