History of Greek Football starts in 1866, almost a century before mobile phones and computers came to light. The first match was played on January 29th of that year, on the island of Corfu (Kerkyra).
The story goes that the officers of a British warship, which was stationed in the port of Corfu, wanted to play football with a team formed by the locals.
The Greeks were unfamiliar with the sport, yet they still managed to win that first football match on Greek soil, attended by over 3,000 spectators.
Despite this fact, the new sport was not at first very popular on mainland Greece, but in the thriving Greek cities of Asia Minor, especially Smyrna. It was there that the first clubs were founded (in the late 19th century); among them, some that continue to this day, e.g. Apollon and Panionios.
The turning point in the history of Greek football (among other things) was the Destruction of Asia Minor by the Turks, and the following evacuation of more than 1 million Greeks to the mainland (1922). All these refugees brought with them their customs, their way of living, their love for sports. New football clubs were founded in every city, mostly by the refugees.
How is football called in Greece?
In Greece, football is called “podosfero“. The popularity of soccer in Greece reflects its historical connection to ancient Greek football and the country’s passion for the sport.
History of the Greek Football Federation, HFF
The Greek Football Federation (Hellenic Football Federation, HFF) was founded in 1926, by a decision of the three major Unions of the country (Athens, Piraeus, Thessalonica).
Its foundation marked organizing Greek football according to international standards. From that day on, H.F.F. has developed into the biggest sports federation of the country, with the “king of sports” occupying the first place in sports’ fans preferences, as it does worldwide.
The Role of Greek Football Federation
The Greek Football Federation is a private legal entity, a non profit association, which, according to Civil Law, has its registered offices in Athens under the name of Hellenic Football Federation (HFF).
Greek Football Federation abstains from any political or religious matters and prohibits any kind of political, religious, national or racial discrimination.
Greek Football Federation is the sole and exclusively qualified competent authority for representing the Greek football. It is a member of the International Football Federation (FIFA) and the European Football Federation (UEFA). Amongst its obligations is to accept the statutes, regulations, directives and decisions of FIFA and UEFA and to ensure that all of the above are also being accepted by everyone, in the field of Greek football
Greek Football Federation Milestones
1926: The foundation of the Greek Football Federation is a fact
1927: The Greek Football Federation becomes a member of FIFA
1954: The Greek Football Federation becomes one of the initial members of UEFA
Greek Football Federation Historic Events
Greek Football Federation has organized major football events with huge success. The most important “moments”, as to the participating clubs, are:
1973: Cup Winners Cup final, Milan-Leeds United (1-0)
1983: Champions League final Hambourg-Juventus (1-0)
1987: UEFA Cup final, Locomotiv-Ajax (0-1)
1994: Champions League final Milan-Barcelona (4-0)
2007: Champions League Final AC Milan-Liverpool (2-1)
Alpha Ethniki replaced by Super League Greece
The Alpha Ethniki (First National Division) was established in 1959 and ran until 2006. This was the top level professional league in Greece.
The Super League Greece was formed in 2006 to replace the Alpha Ethniki as the top tier of Greek football.
Most successful club in the history of Greek football
The most successful clubs in the history of Greek football, along with the number of league titles each club has won, are as follows:
- Olympiacos FC – 47
- Panathinaikos FC – 20
- AEK Athens FC – 12
- PAOK FC – 3
- Aris Thessaloniki FC – 3
- AEL Larissa FC – 1
Olympiacos FC is the most successful club in Greek football history, having won 47 League titles, 28 Cups (18 Doubles), and 4 Super Cups.
Panathinaikos FC and AEK Athens FC are the second and third most successful clubs, respectively, with 20 and 12 league titles each.
What is the current state of football in Greece in 2023?
In recent years, Greek football has witnessed a significant decline, marking a stark contrast to its heyday at the turn of the millennium. Back then, the Alpha Ethniki, Greece’s premier football league, was ranked an impressive 6th place in the UEFA league coefficient ranking.
This prestigious position allowed Greece to have three teams participating in the UEFA Champions League group stages, while Greek clubs consistently advanced to the knockout stages of major tournaments. The pinnacle of their success came when the national team triumphed as the champions of Euro 2004.
The decline of Greek football can be attributed to various factors. One significant aspect is the lack of competition, particularly for Olympiakos, who has effortlessly dominated league matches, creating a substantial gap in competitiveness on the European stage. This dominance has resulted in a disheartening record of 13 matches without a victory for Greek teams.
As of May 2023, Super League Greece has fallen to the 19th position in the UEFA ranking of leagues, based on the performances of teams in European competitions over the past five years. The current champions of the Super League Greece, AEK Athens, clinched their 13th title in the thrilling 2022-23 season.
However, the landscape of Greek football has undergone a dramatic shift since then. Greek teams have failed to qualify for the Champions League in three of the last six editions, and their presence in the knockout stages has been absent since the 2013/14 season. The Greek Super League’s UEFA coefficient has plummeted, reaching as low as 20th place in recent years.
Furthermore, if the national team manages to qualify for Euro 2024, it will have been a decade since their last appearance in a major tournament. Financial mismanagement has also played a detrimental role in the downfall of Greek football. For instance, Panathinaikos experienced a severe financial decline in the early 2010s, leading to their ban from European competitions due to mismanagement. AEK Athens faced a similar fate, being relegated to lower leagues and enduring several years of struggle before reclaiming their position at the top of Greek football.
In summary, football has a long history in Greece but the domestic league has faced many challenges in the 21st century. However, there are signs of gradual improvement recently.
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