Tuesday, April 2, 2013

PAOK FC | Football Club

PAOK FC | Football Club

PAOK FC is the oldest division of PAOK Sports Club, the succession of Hermes Sports Club (Greek: Ερμής), which was formed in 1875 by the Greek community of Pera, a district of Istanbul. The sports club established itself in the first few years of the 20th century, proving that although the Greeks were a minority they could boast a strong presence in the sporting sector. P.A.O.K. F.C. – Panthessaloníkios Athlitikós Ómilos Konstantinoupolitón, the Pan-Thessalonican Athletic Club of Constantinopolitans) is a Greek association football club based in Thessaloniki, Greece.

PAOK FC Stadium
Inside view of Toumba stadium during a match

Name: Toumba Stadium

Location: Toumba district, Thessaloniki, Greece

Year Built: 1959 (Last time rebuilt in 2004, due to the 2004 Summer Olympics, hosted in Greece, Athens.)

Capacity: 28,703 seats

Ownership: AS PAOK Thessaloniki

Used By: PAOK and PAOK Youth Team

Ioannis Dedeoglou who donated the land that the PAOK Sports Arena was built on has also offered to donate land next door to build a new Toumba of around 40,000 seats. However, PAOK's management has shown no interest and prefer to stick with the old Toumba.
Training facilities

Since June 2008, PAOK has had its own training facilities in Nea Mesimvria, Thessaloniki covering over 70,000 square meters. The multisport training facility includes accommodations for PAOK's athletes as well as those of other sports:

7 fields (3 for the first team, 3 for the U11, U15, U18 teams and one for the U21 teams.)
Hosting area for the first and reserves teams
Rooms with projectors for tactical purposes
Press room
Changing rooms
Cafe and restaurant

Shirt and sponsor history


That situation, however, came to an abrupt end after the Asia Minor Catastrophe, when most players were forced to emigrate to Greece due to the population exchanges. Left behind was a club consisting of the residents that remained (later called Politakia). Those who fled settled in Thessaloniki and established PAOK in 1926.

The club's first charter was approved on 20 April 1926 by means of decision of the Thessaloniki Court of First Instance (No. 822). PAOK's first emblem, adopted in 1926 was a four-leaved clover and a horseshoe. The leaves were green with the letters PAOK marked on each of them, a symbol devised by Kostas Koemtzopoulos (president of Pera Club).

The club's founding members were:

T. Triantafyllidis (1st Chairman), Xasan Kioprulu (2nd Chairman), A. Angelopoulos(3rd Chairman), A. Athanasiadis, K. Anagnostidis, M. Ventourellis, A. Dimitriadis, D. Dimitriadis, N. Zoumboulidis, M. Theodosiadis, T. Ioakimopoulos, P. Kalpaktsoglou, T. Kartsambekis, D. Koemtzopoulos, K. Koemtzopoulos, P. Kontopoulos, K. Kritikos, M. Konstantinidis, P. Maletskas, I. Nikolaidis, L. Papadopoulos,F. Gamospitos, F. Samantzopoulos, T. Tsoulkas, M. Tsoulkas, S. Triantafyllidis

1926–1953 – The early years

After two months of preparation by the team following the club's establishment, it was decided that the team should compete against the other teams in Thessaloniki. The first match of the club was a win against Iraklis on 26 July 1925 by 2–1. Two weeks later, PAOK lost 5–2 to Aris.

The vision of the club's founders and the whole PAOK community of establishing a home ground became reality in 1928 following much effort and thus on December 12, 1930 the Syntrivaniou Football Ground was officially opened. This was followed by a friendly match against Aris with PAOK winning 2–1.

The first professional contract was a document of historic importance. It was signed by the Club on 5 September 1928. The contract stipulated that the footballer Etienne from Peraclub would be paid 4,000 drachmas per month. The contract was signed by Dr. Meletiou (PAOK Chairman) and Mr. Sakellaropoulos, Hon. Secretary.

Following the merger with AEK Thessaloniki in 1929, PAOK changed its emblem. The new emblem became the double-headed eagle, which it remains to this day, indicating the heritage of the refugees (Constantinople). The difference between the PAOK eagle and the Byzantine eagle is that PAOK's emblem has its wings folded and the colors are black and white, signifying mourning for expulsion from the homeland.

The first foreign coach in the history of the team was the German Rudolph Ganser, who served with PAOK for the 1931–32 season.

Following World War II and the German occupation of Greece, the team known as the "Two-Headed Eagle" entered upon a shining chapter in its career starting at the beginning of the 1950s. Willi Sevcik, an Austrian coach (1950–1952) who had worn the PAOK jersey in 1931–32, established a young talent academy within the club which gave rise to leading names who later left their mark, such as Leandros, Symeonidis, Giannelos, Margaritis, Giorgos Havanidis, and others.

1953–1970 – Recognition

1953 marked the beginning of PAOK's golden age. During the summer transfer period, Kouiroukidis, Petridis, Progios, Geroudis, Kermanidis, Hourvouliadis, Hasiotis and Angelidis all joined the club. PAOK became all-powerful, winning the Thessaloniki championship for three successive years and becoming a worthy representative of Greece's second city in the "national" championship.

In 1957, the club managers envisioned a new football ground since the old ground had been annexed by the state. The choice was a piece of land belonging to the National Defence Fund in the Toumba District, which was also a neighbourhood closely associated with refugees from Asia Minor. A total area of 30,000 x2 was acquired by PAOK for a significant price, and construction of the new football ground began. Lottery tickets were even issued to aid construction of the new stadium, which was eventually opened on 6 September 1959 by the Minister of National Defence, Mr. G. Themelis. Before the first kick-off, an Air Force plane dropped a ball on a fly-past as a symbolic donation from the armed forces. Thanks to its new Ground, PAOK was ready to start a brilliant career starting with the new First Division established in 1959.

At the opening of the 1st Division's first championship on 25 October 1959, PAOK welcomed the Katerini team Megas Alexandros, beating them 3–1. The team line-up was as follows: Žarko Mihajlović (Serbian) and Progios, Hasiotis, Raptopoulos, Giannelos, Kemanidis, Havanidis, Leandros, Kiourtzis, Kouiroukidis, Salousto and Nikolaidis.

The success of the 1950s was followed by a decade of average performance during the 60's. One could say that it was as if the club was building up its strength to unleash it during the next decade.

1970–1985 – The golden years

The team became established as one of the best ever to play at Greek football grounds with players whose names became legendary for the Greek football. It was a team which set several records, led by president Giorgos Pantelakis.

PAOK managed to strike a blow to the football powers of Athens, winning the Championship in 1976, preceded by triumphs in the Cup, in 1972 and 1974. 1976 also marked the foundation of Gate 4, PAOK's greatest organized fanbase.

Up to 1974, while Greece was governed by a military junta, PAOK had not only a football power, but also an anti-dictatorship symbol of sorts, and Toumba stadium became a harbor of fan anti-junta slogans

The Late Great Les Shannon who once played for high ranking English clubs such as Liverpool and Burnley was one the many causes for PAOK's success as he led them to win the Greek football cup in 1972 and 1974. He is still heralded as a Football Hero in Greek Football today.

PAOK's excellent performance continued during the early 1980s, with the club being one of the regular title contenders. The highest point came in 1985, when the club won its second Greek Championship, its first trophy since Greek football became professional. Another characteristic of the 1980s was the ever-growing fanaticism of the fans, which reached levels of hooliganism never seen before, and began to move beyond Greece's borders, spurring the creation of fanbases in cities all over Europe by the Greek diaspora. However, the obsession shown by fans also had its downside, translating in quite a few cases into outbreaks of violence which entailed penalties and fines being imposed on the club.

At the European level, the club made its best performance ever, qualifying for the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1973–74, where they were knocked out by the Italian team Milan. PAOK also made a memorable appearance against German giants Bayern Munich in the UEFA cup in 1983–84, where it was knocked out on penalties after two goaless draws.

1985–1996 – The first decline

The 1990s started well, with PAOK firmly among the top three teams in Greece. It was stigmatized, however, by an extremely average-to-poor team performance under the chairmanship of Thomas Voulinos, who came into direct conflict with the fans following serious hooliganism episodes during a PAOK–Paris Saint-Germain match for the UEFA Cup, which led to PAOK's exclusion from UEFA European competitions for five years and very soon to financial ruin.
1996–2004 – Revitalization and return to trophies

In 1996, the change long demanded by PAOK fans came about. Voulinos handed over the reins of the club to Giorgos Batatoudis and an air of optimism was tangible everywhere in Thessaloniki. Numerous transfers of well-known players such as Percy Olivares, Zisis Vryzas, Spyros Marangos, Kostas Fratzeskos, and others took place under the new administration.

In 1997, having served its five-year ban, PAOK eventually qualified for the UEFA Cup with coach Angelos Anastasiadis, a legendary former PAOK player, on the bench. The club's reappearance at European level was marked by an astonishing elimination of legendary English club Arsenal. PAOK was eliminated on the next round by the then powerful Atlético Madrid.

However, the new team did not prove equally successful in the domestic league, again finishing fourth in 1997–1998 despite great optimism. The club's continuing inability to break the dominance of the "big three" in the league resulted in several changes in managers over the following three years. By the end of the 1997–1998 season Anastasiadis was sacked and Oleg Blokhin reprised his position as PAOK's manager after five years. Yet, unable to make any considerable improvements, Blokhin himself only stayed for a few months, and was again replaced by Anastasiadis in late 1998. He himself stayed only till February 1999, and was again replaced in favor of Arie Haan, who, like Blokhin, returned after a four-year gap. By December 1999, in fitting fashion, Haan was himself sacked, to be replaced by star coach Dušan Bajević.

PAOK was firmly established among the top teams in the Greek league, but once again growing financial problems and unstable administration by Batatoudis meant they still could not keep up with the three major league contenders of Athens. Nevertheless, Bajevic led the club to their first throphy in 16 years, winning an unforgettable Greek Cup final against Olympiacos in 2001, with an emphatic 2–4 score.

Angelos Anastasiadis was once again summoned, as Bajevic did not renew his contract in the summer of 2002. Anastasiadis led the club to another Cup triumph, the second in the three years. It was in the club's home ground in Toumba Stadium, that PAOK celebrated their fourth Greek Cup, defeating arch-rivals Aris Thessaloniki F.C. 1–0).
Despite these triumphs, however, debts were continued to plague the club, and some successes in the UEFA Cup were short-lived.
2004–2007 – The second decline and near-destruction

In late summer of 2003, under great pressure from fans, Batatoudis handed his shares to businessmen Giannis Goumenos and Vassilis Pagonis. Goumenos also assumed the presidency, under the motto of a "temporary administration". This meant that his role would be to try to facilitate a possible deal with people willing to make the hefty investments required to save the club from its debts.

The 2003–04 season was an unexpected success – under the management of Anastasiadis, and although in accordance to a tight financial policy (in order to decrease the debts, leading many key players to leave as free agents for other clubs, including eventual champions Olympiacos), they managed to finish third and to secure participation in the qualifying rounds of the following year's UEFA Champions League. The prospect of the Champions League group stage brought great optimism to fans and management alike, especially because the projected income would practically eliminate all debts.

Unfortunately the team failed to qualify, as they were knocked out by unlikely opponents Maccabi Tel Aviv in the third qualifying round. The main reason was that in the home game, Anastasiadis fielded Liassos Louka, a Cypriot player who was still serving a two-match ban in UEFA competitions (for his sending-off in a UEFA Intertoto Cup tie while playing for Nea Salamis on 8 July 2000). Though the game did finish 1–2 for Maccabi, the 0–3 forfeit win awarded to the Israelis destroyed all hope PAOK had for a comeback, and the rematch lost all interest (4–0 aggregate loss). After the subsequent UEFA Cup elimination by AZ Alkmaar, Anastasiadis resigned. Thus, the 2004–2005 season started with the worst omens for the club and for Goumenos.

Instead of making any improvements, Goumenos' administration failed miserably in the next two years, as the club's debt to the Greek state (due to constant tax evasions, interests and unpaid fines) continued to grow, and on top of that, the financial management of the club itself was ever deteriorating.

Rolf Fringer was appointed as new coach in September 2004, replacing Anastasiadis, yet did not live up to expectaions, managing Anastasiadis' former squad which mostly consisted of youngsters. After a few games, Fringer was eventually replaced by Nikos Karageorgiou, leading the club to a fifth-place finish in May 2005, and a UEFA Cup qualification.

The 2005–2006 season started with better omens, yet proved to be the most turbulent. Apart from the return of legendary former captain Theodoros Zagorakis in the summer of 2005 from Bologna FC, signings of key players like Marcin Mieciel, Fatih Akyel and Shikabala took place. Despite this, another mediocre league start led Karageorgiou to be sacked as well, and replaced by former technical director Giorgos Kostikos. Kostikos did manage good performances in the autumn of 2005, including an unexpected away win at Olympiacos FC, and a thrilling qualification to the UEFA Cup group stages. However, after the winter break, the squad fared from bad to worse, suffering a handful of successive defeats, which led Kostikos to the exit as well, replaced by Ilie Dumitrescu. By now Goumenos had set a new record for the club, by laying off five different coaches in just 16 months. While the club did achieve UEFA cup qualification by finishing in sixth place, uncertainty was more than tangible.

By the end of May 2006, the club's dramatic situation started to emerge, with players openly declaring they are unpaid for months, plus a shock decision by UEFA to ban the club from participating in the upcoming UEFA Cup brought the club one step from complete ruin, with the organized fanbase launching an all-out war on Goumenos in the June 2006, going as far as to occupy the club's offices in Toumba stadium for a handful of days. The situation was ever worsening for Goumenos, after many failed deals with possible investors, constant allegations of embezzlement, and especially his decision to sell star player Dimitris Salpingidis to Panathinaikos, in an effort to cash in. The latter had a profound impact, causing a lot of disgust in the already disappointed fans.

The 2006–2007 season started with PAOK unsure if they could even manage to participate in the Greek League, due to the pressing debts. Little-known players like Carlos Zegarra and Miguel Rebosio were signed, in an effort to fill the squad, and Dumitrescu settled with ultra-defensive tactics, as the means to earn what points he could – resulting in terrible quality football, tiring fans and rapidly diminishing ticket sales.

Eventually, Goumenos was forced to withdraw from the presidency in 13 November 2006 (though he would not relinquish his shares until over two years later). He was replaced by Nikos Vezyrtzis and Apostolos Oikonomidis, former shareholders in PAOK BC. The new management was appointed under order of the District Court of Thessaloniki, as the club was now essentially under state observation, owing to the huge debt to the Greek state which by now was well over €30 million.

The club fared little better in remainder of the season. Managerial changes continued as ever – Momcilo Vukotic replaced Dumitrescu in October 2006, only to be sacked himself five months later, in favor of Giorgos Paraschos. PAOK eventually finished the 2006–2007 season in 6th place, losing out on the UEFA Cup spots, and little hope of breaking its shackles, as the fans continued to put very little trust in the Vezyrtzis-Oikonomidis duo and the needed investments seemed highly unlikely.

2007–2010 – The Zagorakis renaissance and the "three-year plan"

In the summer of 2007, Theodoros Zagorakis assumed presidency of the club, replacing the Vezyrtzis-Oikonomidis administration and thus ushered in a new era. One of the new management's first actions was to lay down a three-year plan: the first year priority would be to take action the club's massive crippling debts, beginning in 2007–08, the second would be to qualify for the UEFA Cup again, and the third would be to become a major league title contender once again.

Yet because of the tremendous financial breakdown in the past four years, the club was left with a low quality roster and almost no prospect of any summer transfers. Yet, due to hope and trust of the traditional fanbase in the iconic figure of Zagorakis, the summer of 2007 saw an unprecedented rise in season ticket sales, toppling all previous club records, and bringing a much-needed influx of cash for the club. This allowed the transfers of seasoned – though relatively cheap, being free agents – players like Vassilis Lakis, Ifeanyi Udeze, and Glen Salmon, and also the return of veteran PAOK and Perugia striker Zisis Vryzas. Many older debts to former players and managers, could finally be paid off.

The plan's first season was still plagued by poor performances, including many home defeats and an elimination from the Greek Cup by second division club Thrasyvoulos. The early replacement of coach Giorgos Paraschos by established manager Fernando Santos did little to prevent a ninth place finish in the league, the worst performance by the club in 11 years. One of the few high points was the winter transfer of star player Sérgio Conceição.

The club's finances, however, gradually improved, and – thanks to the continuing massive support from fans in the form of season tickets, as well as many new sponsorship deals – the summer of 2008 saw the transfers of widely known internationals like Pablo Contreras, Zlatan Muslimović, Pablo García to the club, among others. Many of them were attributed to Zisis Vryzas, who had meanwhile decided to retire in January 2008 to assume the place of technical director for the club.

In January 2009, Zagorakis announced the club's intention of building a new training facility complex in Nea Mesimvria, Thessaloniki. The club had already acquired land from the municipality of Agios Athanasios in the previous summer, and by February construction was already under way.

The end of the 2008–09 season found PAOK in second place, eight points behind champions Olympiacos, the best place the club had taken since 1985, and well above what was expected in the summer. This success, however was short-lived, as the club failed to retain their place in the recently erected league playoffs, finishing fourth and missing out on the second UEFA Champions League berth to Panathinaikos. Nevertheless, the club secured a spot in the 2009–10 UEFA Europa League third qualifying round.

Despite the League playoff failure, the 2009–10 season started with the best omens for the club, as once again the response to the summer sales of season tickets was enormous, despite the hefty increase in prices. Numerous transfers once again took place, including former Racing de Santander player Vitolo, experienced defender Bruno Cirillo, and star youngster Vasilios Koutsianikoulis, the club's costliest transfer in many years. Key players' contracts, like Olivier Sorlin and Vieirinha, were also renewed.

The new squad did not manage to live up to expectations immediately, suffering a painful (especially in financial terms) UEFA Cup elimination by Dutch club Heerenveen. To make matters worse, the first few games of 2009 found the club struggling in low positions. Despite that, the squad gradually started to climb to the first places, and starting on 5 December 2009, managed a 13-game unbeaten streak, including memorable wins against Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, solidifying the club as one of the main league title contenders. This run was not without setbacks, as the club suffered another shock elimination, this time from the Greek Cup, at the hands of recently promoted PAS Giannena.

The unbeaten streak ended in late March, when successive derby defeats by Aris and AEK, effectively ended any hope of winning the championship. However, the club redeemed itself in the league play-offs by finishing first, with impressive consecutive wins against Aris Thessaloniki F.C., AEK F.C. and twice against Olympiakos F.C.. Thus, PAOK was eligible to compete in the 2010–11 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round.

2010–2012 — The years after Fernando Santos

The three-year plan ended as a perceived success; PAOK was transformed from a miserable, rapidly collapsing club to a major championship contender once again, filling Toumba stadium on a regular basis, and having constantly positive finances, despite the burden of the still unsettled debt to the Greek state.

The 2010 league playoff success was swiftly followed by Fernando Santos' announcement of his decision to depart, having concluded his three-year contract. It was eventually decided in mid-June that Mario Beretta would be his successor, following negotiations with numerous other Italian managers by Zisis Vryzas.

The club's first – and much speculated – transfer was the return of prodigal son Dimitris Salpingidis for the next four years, whose contract with Panathinaikos had just expired in June. The first dumors initially caused some controversy among the organized fan base, though Salpingidis was eventually welcomed back by the vast majority of fans, very much in light of his huge potential as a striker.

After withdrawing to the training facilities of Bad Brückenau in mid-July, the club was also drawn to face AFC Ajax in the third qualifying round.

As the squad made several awful appearances in its pre-season friendly matches (notably losing to Kickers Offenbach by 3–1), alarming fans and management alike, Theodoros Zagorakis finally decided to fire Beretta and his staff on 22 July, just one week prior to the club's away match in Amsterdam. Beretta was quickly replaced with Pavlos Dermitzakis, veteran PAOK player and Zagorakis' initial choice before reverting to Beretta. Beretta also became the shortest-lived PAOK coach ever, sitting on the bench for just 38 days.

With Dermitzakis at the helm, PAOK faced Ajax and was ultimately eliminated on the away goals rule, managing a 1–1 draw in Amsterdam and a thrilling 3–3 draw in Thessaloniki. Entering the UEFA Europa League playoff round, PAOK were drawn against Turkish club Fenerbahçe, also eliminated on the Champions League third qualifying round. This time, PAOK fared much better and after winning the home game 1–0 in Thessaloniki, secured a memorable 1–1 draw in Istanbul after extra time, qualifying for the group stage, and being drawn to play alongside Villarreal CF, Club Brugge and Dinamo Zagreb.

Unfortunately, such excellent performances did not continue in the first fixtures of the Greek league. Unsuccessful results included a stinging 0–1 home loss to arch-rival Aris FC (the first home loss in twelve years), and although the European campaign was on track (with a draw against Brugge and a win against Dinamo Zagreb) many key players received harsh criticism from the fans, not as much for the bad results, as for their apparent lack of passion, which they showed against Ajax and Fenerbaçhe. Dermitzakis was not excluded from criticism, and was thought to be losing control over his players' discipline by engaging in personal conflicts.

Another hands-down defeat against Panathinaikos cemented the belief that the team cannot be improved under Dermitzakis, leading to his removal on October 17.[33] His assistant Makis Chavos replaced him as caretaker coach. At first fans were asking for a quick replace of Chavos by a European-range coach, but after a streak of four wins in the Greek Superleague and a home 1–0 win against Villarreal CF in the UEFA Europe League group stage, Chavos started to be considered as a useful solution as long as the team remained tranquil and was indeed signed as the permanent coach in mid-December.

PAOK ended their Europa League group stage campaign with an emphatic win 0–1 at GNK Dinamo Zagreb, qualifying second after Villarreal CF. They were later drawn to face PFC CSKA Moscow on the first knock-out round in February. The first game in Toumba ended 0–1 and, due to the 1–1 result in Moscow, PAOK was eliminated from the next phase of 2010–11 UEFA Champions League play-off round. In the 2010-2011 season, PAOK finished 4th in the regular season and secured a place in the 2011–12 UEFA Europa League third qualifying round by finishing 2nd in the playoff round. PAOK board appointed the experienced Romanian coach László Bölöni.Under the leadership of Bölöni PAOK UEFA Europa League playoff round and enter the group stage once again despide the many injured players the club had. In 30 November 2011, PAOK achieved a historic and thoroughly deserved victory, against English club Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, with a 2–1 scoreline. With this victory, the club quilified for the round of 32 of the Europa League for a second consecutive year.There PAOK faced Udinese after a 0-0 draw in Udine and a 0-3 loss in Toumpa PAOK was eliminated from the next phase of 2011–12 UEFA Champions League play-off round.

At 25 January 2012 after 0-1 home loss against Atromitos and after a long period with grumbling fans due to selling or letting go of some of the best players of the team such as Vieirinha and Pablo Contreras Theodoros Zagorakis resign from presint of the team and Zisis Vryzas took his place.In this season, PAOK finished 4th in the regular season and secured a place in the 2012–13 UEFA Europa League third qualifying round by finishing 3nd in the playoff round.
2012-present - The Ivan Savvidi era

In the summer of 2012 after several months of negotiations Ivan Savvidi became the new major shareholder of PAOK after investing 12 milion euro,the 2 of them were given at the club as a loan in May 2012.The new shareholder of PAOK established a new financial policy at the club in order to pay off the vast debts which were created by the previous administrations and so the club would from now on use players from the academies rather than buying foreign players with doubtful quality.PAOK board appointed the young and talented Greek coach Giorgos Donis after terminating the contract with László Bölöni due to a bad season.PAOK enter the Europa League 3rd Qualification Round and with an 0-2 away and a 4-1 home win over Bnei Yehuda was qualifed for the Play–Off Round where the club faced Rapid Wien but was eliminated after a 2-1 home win and a 3-0 away defeat.The elimination was a serious financial blow to the club since the economic profits from a qualification would cover over half of the team's budget from the 2012-2013 season.


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