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Monday, May 24, 2004 

Olympiacos - Bringing pride to Piraeus

By the mid-1920s Greek football had developed to the point where Athens and Thessaloniki had teams to be proud of, leaving Piraeus, a city often overlooked as merely being the port area of Athens, in the shade once again.

Public approval
The response from Piraeus came on 10 Marcy 1925, when a group led by Michalis Manouskos founded Olympiacos Syndesmos Filathlon Pireos (literally, the Olympiacos club of Piraeus supporters). The club immediately caught the attention of the locals, with the team filling the Piraeus Velodrome (now the Karaiskakis stadium) despite the fact that their fans came mostly from poor families of workers or sailors.

The Andrianopoulos brothers
The stars of the day were the Andrianopoulos brothers - Giannis, Dinos, Giorgos, Vassilis and Leonidas - who were behind the side's early successes. A first league title came in the 1930/31 season, and from then on the Red and Whites developed the winning habit which has turned them into Greece's best-supported team.

Six in a row
The second world war prefaced a golden era in the late 1940s and 1950s, as Olympiacos collected nine league championships and eight Greek Cups. With key performers such as Andreas Mouratis, Elias Rossidis, Thanassis Bebis, Elias Yfantis, Kostas Polychroniou, Giorgos Darivas and Savas Theodoridis, they won six consecutive titles from 1954-59. But even in the lean years, the club remained the team everyone wanted to beat.

Century of goals
Another glorious chapter began to unfold in 1972, after Nikos Goulandris became president. He appointed Lakis Petropoulos as coach and signed star players Giorgos Delikaris, Yves Triantafyllos, Julio Losada, Milton Viera and Dimitris Persidis. The highlight for that side was the 1973/74 season, when Olympiacos won the league with a record tally of points (59) and of goals (102). It was a question, not of whether they would win, but of how many they would score.

Dismal decade
Olympiacos then lived their darkest days between the mid-1980s and mid-90s. The club's shares passed from one businessman of dubious background, Giorgos Koskotas, to another, Argyris Saliarelis; both would be imprisoned while Olympiacos fell into debt. On the pitch, the team went ten years without a league title from 1987-97.

Back on track
The situation improved after Socrates Kokkalis took over Olympiacos's shares of in 1993, having agreed a settlement of the club's debts with the Greek government. Kokkalis slowly resurrected the team, his most significant step being to hire Dusan Bajevic as coach in the summer of 1996. Ever since, Olympiacos have been Greek champions - even after Bajevic left in 1999.

European envy
For all their domestic success, though, Olympiacos are yet to impress in Europe. The mere thought that arch-rivals Panathinaikos FC have a stronger record in UEFA club competition (having played in one European Champion Clubs' Cup final and three European Cup or UEFA Champions League semi-finals), makes them desperate for glory on the continental stage.

Olympiacos's best moments at this level came with appearances in the 1992/93 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals - where they lost to Club Atlético de Madrid - and in the last eight of the 1998/99 Champions League, when Juventus FC beat them.

New stadium
The club's supporters hope their much-anticipated return, in autumn 2004, to the Karaiskakis stadium, which has been rebuilt for the 2004 Olympics, will be the catalyst for improved fortunes in Europe. Certainly, a new ground has been one of only two gaps in the CV of one of the continent's most-titled clubs.

League championships: 1931, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1966, 1967, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1987, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003.

Greek Cups: 1947, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1981, 1990, 1992, 1999.

Source: Uefa.com

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