OFI Football Team
OFI F.C. Foundation: 1925
OFI F.C. Team Colors: Black & White
OFI F.C. Stadium: Pankritio Stadium (Capacity: 26,240)
OFI Football Team History
OFI Football Club, officially Omilos Filathlon Irakleiou, is a professional football club based in Heraklion, Crete. Founded in the fall of 1925 by Cretan athletes from a local gymnasium, the club’s black and white colors were unique among Cretan sports clubs at the time.
The pre-World War II era posed significant challenges for OFI Crete F.C., limiting them to local matches within Crete, especially against other Heraklion-based clubs. The team still managed to play about 400 matches before the German occupation of Crete.
A pivotal moment for OFI Crete F.C. was its first foray into the National League in 1945, followed by a landmark achievement in the 1975-76 season, securing promotion to the First National Division and sparking island-wide celebrations.
The 1980s marked the beginning of the influential tenure of Theodoros Vardinogiannis. Vardinogiannis improved the team by bringing in players from Panathinaikos, another team he owned. In particular, three goalkeepers, a midfielder and a defender arrived from Athens in 1983-84. The appointment of Dutchman Eugène Gerards as head coach in 1985 led to a historic 15-year run, the longest in the history of the Greek league.
OFI Crete F.C. has achieved several successful promotions to the top flight of Greek football, including a recent promotion for the 2020-2021 season. The club’s most notable achievements include winning the Greek Cup in 1987 and 1996 and representing Greece in the UEFA Europa League.
In addition to its success on the pitch, OFI Crete F.C. is also recognized for its contributions to the community. The club’s CSR efforts focus on improving lives and helping those in need. In recognition of these efforts, the club was named “Sports Club of the Year 2020” at the Greek Sports Marketing Awards.
The club’s home ground is the 9,000-capacity Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium in Heraklion. Known for its passionate fan base, the club creates an electrifying atmosphere at home games and actively engages with fans through various social media platforms.
OFI FC Home Stadium
OFI FC plays its home games at the Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium. The stadium, located in Heraklion, Crete, Greece, was built in 1951. It was named posthumously in honor of Theodoros Vardinogiannis, an important figure in the club’s history. The stadium is also known colloquially as “Yedi Kule”.
Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium has a seating capacity of 9,088. Its playing surface is natural grass and it lacks both an under-floor heating system and a running track. The last renovation of the stadium was completed in 2004.
The stadium is owned by the amateur club OFI, while its operation is managed by OFI Crete. The stadium’s record attendance was 12,391 during an OFI match against Olympiakos on September 25, 1988.
The stadium is located in Kaminia, a district to the west of the center of Heraklion, and is easily accessible. Visitors can find it by following the signs to Hania and leaving the Venetian walls through Hanioporta. After passing the KTEL (intercity buses) terminal, a left turn onto Kantanou Street leads directly to the stadium.
OFI Gate 4
OFI Crete F.C. boasts a passionate fan base, including the renowned organized fan group “Snakes Gate-4“. This group is renowned for their unwavering support and dedication to the team, which adds to the vibrant atmosphere at matches. Their enthusiasm contributes immensely to the vibrant and electric experience at the stadium.
Achievements of OFI F.C
OFI Crete F.C., a prestigious Greek professional football club based in Heraklion, Crete, has a storied legacy marked by significant achievements in both Greek and European football. The club’s landmark achievements include:
- Greek Cup Wins: OFI Crete F.C. triumphed in the Greek Cup in the 1986-87 and 1995-96 seasons, marking pivotal moments in the club’s timeline and cementing its place in the annals of Greek football.
- Winning the Balkan Cup: In the 1988-89 season, the club emerged victorious in the Balkan Cup. This now defunct tournament was a highly regarded regional soccer competition for clubs from the Balkan states, and highlighted the club’s regional dominance.
- Promotions to the Top Tier of Greek Football: OFI Crete F.C. has been promoted to the first league four times, in the 1967/68, 1975/76, 2010/11, and 2017/18 seasons and remains in it until the 2023-2024 season.
- Participation in UEFA competitions: OFI Crete F.C. has made notable appearances in the UEFA Cup, now known as the UEFA Europa League, participating in the 1986/87, 1993/94, 1997/98 and 2000/01 seasons, demonstrating its competitiveness on the European stage.
- Sports Club of the Year: The club was recognized for its outstanding contributions in sports marketing and corporate social responsibility, winning eight awards at the Greek Sports Marketing Awards. This recognition led to the club being named Sports Club of the Year in Greece for two consecutive years.
- Consistent Performance in Greek Championship: OFI Crete F.C. has consistently performed at a high level in the Greek championship, regularly outperforming prominent teams such as Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, especially during Gerard’s tenure.
These milestones underscore not only the competitive zeal of OFI Crete F.C., but also its lasting impact on Greek and European soccer.
OFI F.C.’s most memorable match
One of the most memorable matches played by OFI Crete F.C. was on June 21, 1987, when they defeated Iraklis 3-1 on penalties to win the Greek Cup. The match was played at the Olympic Stadium in Athens and ended 1-1 after regulation and extra time. The victory marked OFI Crete F.C.’s first Greek Cup title and their first appearance in a European competition.
The triumph, under the guidance of Dutch coach Eugene Gerards, was a significant milestone in the club’s history and helped establish OFI Crete F.C. as a competitive force in Greek football.
Notable Players of OFI F.C
OFI Crete F.C. has had numerous memorable players throughout its history. Some of the most notable include:
- Nikolaos Machlas: He is the all-time top goalscorer for OFI Crete F.C., having scored 73 goals during his tenure with the club.
- Nikolaos Nioplias: He is the second all-time top goalscorer for the club, with 71 goals.
- Georgios Samaras: A former professional footballer who played as a winger or a striker. He is also the vice-president of OFI Crete.
- Orestis Karnezis: A Greek professional footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Italian club Napoli and the Greece national team.
- Mahamadou Diarra: A Malian former professional footballer who played as a defensive midfielder and served as captain for the Mali national team.
- Nikos Kounenakis: A retired Greek-South African footballer.
- Aristides Soiledis: A Greek professional footballer who plays as a left back for Romanian club FCSB.
The 2023 composition of the team includes players from various nationalities and positions. Key players in the squad include:
- Nikolaos Marinakis, a right-back
- Dan Glazer, a defensive midfielder
- Miguel Mellado, a defensive midfielder
- Ilias Simantirakis
- Eric Larsson
- Triantafyllos Pasalidis
- Praxitelis Vouros
- Noam Baumann, a goalkeeper
- Nikolaos Christogeorgos
- Dimitris Sotiriou
- Leroy Abanda
- Konstantinos Giannoulis
- Andreas Karo
- Vasilis Lampropoulos
- Juan Neira, an attacking midfielder
- Santiago Mosquera, a left winger
- Luiz Phellype, a centre-forward
- Nouha Dicko
These players have made significant contributions to the club and have left a lasting impact on its history.
OFI FC has been led by several influential coaches throughout its history:
Eugène Gerards, a Dutch coach, stands out for his extraordinary 15-year tenure from 1985 to 2000, the longest for a coach in the Greek league. Under his leadership, OFI Crete experienced its “golden years” and achieved remarkable domestic and European success. In 1986, Gerards led OFI Crete to a second place finish in the Alpha Ethniki, the club’s highest ever finish in the competition. The highlight of his tenure came in 1987, when he led the club to its first and only major title, winning the Greek Cup.
The current head coach, Valdas Dambrauskas, continues this legacy of influential leadership.
Other important coaches in the club’s history include:
- Domagoj Kapetanovic
- Murat Seropian
- Giannis Chatzinikolaou
- Nikos Goulis
- Myron Sifakis
- Giannis Petrakis
- Nikos Papadopoulos
- Antonis Georgiadis
Each coach has played a vital role in the development and success of OFI Crete FC, cementing its status as a competitive force in the Greek league system.
OFI website: https://www.oficretefc.com/
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