Greece’s Biggest Soccer Derby Kicks Off
The Greek Superleague is often a competition for bragging rights more than anything else. No other fixture reflects this better than the upcoming clash between Panathinaikos F.C. and Olympiacos F.C., at Panathinaikos’s “Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium” on Saturday.
“The Derby of the Eternal Enemies”, as it is commonly known, is always an occasion for excitement regardless of the league positions of either of the two teams.
The rivalry dates back to the early years of the two teams. Panathinaikos was founded in 1908 while Olympiacos came along in 1925. Olympiacos represents the city of Piraeus, where Greece’s largest port is. Panathinaikos on the other hand has been traditionally a team of the city of Athens. The animosity stems in part from who the two teams initially seemed to represent. Olympiacos had a large working class fan base while fans from wealthier class supported Panathinaikos.
Though these differentiations may seem redundant given that these two teams have the most supporters all across Greece. Piraeus and Athens are arguably still their respective headquarters and where each team’s presence can be felt the most.
The rivalry has been often marred by violence, with organized fans fighting off the field. Unlike most football matches around the world, the hosts of this fixture do not provide tickets for the away fans.
Players and coaches are not safe from these tensions either. The latest violent incident was during last February’s game when Panathinaikos fans came onto the pitch and attacked Olympiacos players and management.
In terms of football, Panathinaikos has not won the league since the 2009-2010 season. Olympiacos has won every title since then. In fact, these two teams have won the last 21 Greek league seasons, Olympiacos fans will point out that their team has won 17 seasons while Panathinaikos has won four. All in all, Olympiacos holds 42 Greek league titles while Panathinaikos has claimed 20.
For the past two seasons the teams have shared the spoils with one victory in each of the season’s two league fixtures. Though this is only the 11th of the 30 games the teams will play this year it could prove decisive for the league’s outcome particularly for Panathinaikos who trail Olympiacos by eight points already. Defeat from Olympiacos would signify an 11 point gap and significant mental blow for Panathinaikos. A victory however, in front of the home fans, would be a significant morale boost.
Saturday’s game is also debut for Andrea Stramaccioni who replaced Yiannis Anastasiou as Panathinaikos’s manager earlier in the month
The game kicks off on Saturday at 7.30 P.M. local time.
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