Greek Shamrock close on The Legend

Players of Panathinaikos celebrate
© Getty Images

Olympiacos may be the undisputed record champions of Greek football, but anyone who thinks the club's place in history remains unchallenged would be very much mistaken.

City rivals Panathinaikos pose the biggest threat to the supremacy of Thrylos (The Legend), having set plenty of their own records throughout their 100-year history, many of which still stand today.

Birth of an institution
The Athenian outfit have two brothers to thank for their foundation at the beginning of the 20th century. Giorgios Kalafatis, the club’s first coach and captain, and his sibling Alexandros, its first president, were joined by 14 other men in founding the Panhellenic Football Club, or POA for short, on 3 February 1908.

By 1924 the club had adopted its current form as Panathinaikos Athletikos Omilos, replacing its white and black kit with a green uniform. The shamrock was added to the crest in 1918 after the club’s General Secretary at the time, Michalis Papazoglou, discovered it on a trip to Constantinople (now Istanbul).

The making of a legend
As early as the 1920s, Panathinaikos and neighbouring AEK Athens struck up a fierce city rivalry, which Oi Prasinoi (The Greens) dominated in their early days with six successive city championships. Panathinaikos’ early success commanded respect both in Greece and abroad and in 1925 they contested their first European game, a 1-1 draw against Yugoslavian club Vittoria Zagreb.

A first league title followed in 1930 under the tutelage of Hungarian coach Joseph Kinsler and ten years later Pana celebrated their first Greek Cup triumph. However, the club’s true glory years were yet to come. By 1965, Panathinaikos had won seven league titles and two cups, remaining unbeaten throughout the 1963/64 campaign.

Another Hungarian, the legendary Ferenc Puskas, led *To Trifylli *(The Shamrock) to the final of the UEFA European Champion Clubs’ Cup in 1971, where they were beaten 2-0 by the famous Ajax side including Johan Neeskens, Johan Cruyff and Arie Haan.

Pana remained a force on the continent, subsequently enjoying regular success in both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup. In 1996 the club reached the semi-finals of Europe’s premier club competition, only to be ousted by their old foes Ajax 3-1 on aggregate.

Unsurprisingly, Panathinaikos have provided many players to the Greek national team down the years. The Athenian outfit had ten players at UEFA EURO 2008, more than any other club along with French giants Olympique Lyon. For the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ play-off match against Ukraine, no fewer than 14 players involved plied their trade at Panathinaikos.

Since then the Greens’ contingent has become fewer, with just three Pana players – Kostas Katsouranis, Sotiris Ninis and captain Giorgios Karagounis – in the squad for EURO 2012.

The present
As mentioned previously, Olympiacos have outshone Panathinaikos in recent years, claiming 14 out of a possible 16 league titles between 1997 and 2012. Pana could only break their dominance in 2004 and 2010, though they did manage to record domestic doubles in both those years, their seventh and eighth respectively.

In 2008 the club celebrated their centenary by wearing a specially-designed kit and taking part in various events and friendly matches throughout the year. The club’s famous crest was even changed for a brief period, with fans invited to design a new logo. In the end a clover leaf consisting of several small hearts and forming the number 100 was chosen and printed on the team’s shirts along with the traditional badge.

Panathinaikos boast various national records, including the highest attendance for a Greek match (75,473 in 1986), as well as the most season tickets sold (2010/11) – evidence, claim the Trifylli faithful, that their club is the most beloved in the capital.

Pana's most obvious target for the future is to finally overthrow Olympiacos as Greece’s top club, and heavy investment has brought them closer to achieving their aim in recent years. A reported €23 million were spent on fresh talent during their centenary year – more than any other Greek club in history.  

The stadium
The story of the club's stadium almost deserves an article of its own. It took until 14 years after the club was founded for Panathinaikos to finally move into their first true home, the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadion, in 1922. The arena underwent various redevelopments in the coming years before the club decided to play their home games at the 71,000-capacity Olympiastadion, home of city rivals AEK Athens, as of 2007. This was intended to be a temporary measure with plans made for a brand new stadium, though it remains to be seen if or when Panathinaikos will move home once again.

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