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It Was All Greek to Me
by Clint Wayne
2008-04-13 11:37:07
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Back in the summer of 2004 I found myself, like a lot of my fellow football compatriots, cheering on the Greek National team as they took on the hosts Portugal in the European Nations Football Final. Of course you understand that this had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Portugal had previously knocked England out on penalties but more because of the dislike of the ‘cocky’ nature of then manager Scolari and the utterly disappointing gamesmanship displayed by the team in diving and over reaction to every tackle.

Greece had already pulled off some remarkable results having already beaten the host nation in the opening game and added further impressive wins as the tournament progressed against France and the Czech Republic. Angelos Charisteas’ winning goal ensured one of the biggest shocks in international football history and left the English Nation feeling smugly satisfied.

The first time I found myself interested in Greek football was when I took my brother, as a birthday treat, to Wembley to see the 1971 European Cup Final between Ajax and Panathinaikos on a pleasant summer’s evening.

Panathinaikos, who celebrate their centenary this year, were then managed by the Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas and had previously eliminated the English Champions Everton on their way to the final but sadly though this wasn’t as pleasant an evening’s outing for the Greek team as the ‘Dutch Masters’ outplayed them with a three-nil win inspired by the gifted Johan Cruyff.

Of course I couldn’t possibly pen an article on Greek football without a mention of Nikos Dabizas who signed for my beloved Newcastle United from Olympiakos in 1998 and went on to make 175 appearances, including 11 proper goals plus one spectacular own goal, scored with a diving header and his first touch when coming on as a substitute.

He was also the first Greek player to play in a F.A. Cup Final at Wembley although that ended with disappointment at the hands of Arsenal. Sir Bobby Robson handed him the captain’s armband and although it was merely a friendly he recalls it as “one of the proudest moments of his career”.

His total commitment every time he pulled on the No 34 black and white shirt earned him the love and respect of the ‘Toon Army’ and became our resident Greek God. Scoring the winning goal in the local derby against Sunderland in 2002 lifted his status to legend and there it remains despite his departure in 2003.

In 2004 Newcastle played their 100th European game against Olympiakos in the 4th round of the UEFA Cup winning 4-0 at home, following a 3-1 1st leg win in Athens which probably bought a smile from all the rival Panathinaikos fans the world over!!

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Asa2008-04-13 11:39:08
His own goal against Spurs will live long in the memory, as will his goal against the mackems!

Ζορμπάς2008-04-14 00:15:02
Was it that long ago?? Thanks to Newcastle for the entairtainmnet!

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