They Might Be Giants (AEK Athens)

AEK stands for the Athletic Union of Constantinople, with the founding members being Greek refugees displaced from Constantinople and Anatolia after the Greco-Turkish War. Prior to the war Constantinople had two dominant Greek clubs, Énosis Tatávlon and Ermís and it was former members of these clubs who met in a Athens sports shop in 1924 to form AEK.

Domestically AEK are the third most successful Greek side behind Olympiacos and Panathinaikos with 12 championship wins and 15 Greek Cup triumphs.

In the post WWII period AEK had some success under English coach Jack Beby who had a modest career in England with the likes of Darlington, Bristol Rovers, Gillingham and Leicester City. Under Beby AEK won two Greek cups and the Athens regional championship, although sadly the Pan Hellenic Championship to decide the overall champion wasn’t played that season.

AEK have a proud record in European competition with their best performance in the European Cup being quarter-finalists in 1968-69 when they were beaten by Spartak Trnava of Slovakia having eliminated Jeunesse Esch and AB Gladsaxe. In the UEFA Cup of 1976-77 they beat Dynamo Moscow, Derby County, Red Star Belgrade and Queens Park Rangers before a semi-final defeat to eventual winners Juventus.

AEK’s traditional home, since inauguration in 1930, was the Nikos Goumas Stadium in Nea Filadelfeia. Sadly the stadium had to be demolished in 2003 following damage sustained in the terrible earthquake of 1999. The club do have a new stadium, Agia Sophia Stadium, under construction in their traditional heartland of Nea Filadelfeia. After years of political wrangling permission was formally granted in July 2017. Until it is ready, AEK have somewhat reluctantly shared the Olympic stadium with Panathinaikos, although Pana occasionally return for spells at their own ground, the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium.

Today’s game sees the visit of lowly OFI Crete to the Olympic Stadium. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty poor game, OFI offering scant resistance and the hosts win by a single goal scored by the fans favourite, the Croatian striker Marko Livaja. There is an ultras section of around 800 of AEK’s Original 21 ultras, lead by a capo of colossal proportions who is stood bouncing on a very rickety looking tower. They belt out a relentless catalogue of chants. The ultras are profoundly left wing and have a “triangle of brotherhood” with Livorno and Marseille as well as friendships with St Pauli and Fenerbahçe. It was all rather impressive and made up for the turgid game and some of the worst sight lines at a modern football stadium I can ever remember.

index
Sunday February 10th 2019 – Greek Super League

AEK Athens 1 (Livaja 37)
OFI Crete 0

Att: 7,580 (at Olympiakó Stádio Spiros Louis)

Entry €10, no programme

Gallery

IMG_5182IMG_5179Feb 2019 154IMG_5248IMG_5233Feb 2019 155Feb 2019 168AEK ticket

 

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More Northern Skies

The days before and after any Swedish Groundhop offer a plethora of options for those wishing to extend there stay in this summer football season part of the world.

For the few that remained in Sweden Kim Hedwall organised a minibus to take in a couple of Monday matches on what was a National Day holiday in his homeland.

First up was a pit stop at Enköping to admire the modern and attractive stadium of the two local clubs. Enavallen hosts both Enköping SK, who were an Allsvenskan club as recently as 2003, and Enköping IS. The main stand is visually very pleasing and Kim has mooted this as a potential hop venue of the future.

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A few minutes later we arrive at fourth tier side Håbo FF and their Björkvallen ground is already teeming with people on this glorious afternoon. The Swedish national anthem is sung beautifully by a young lady before over 600 people watched the local side rattle in four hugely impressive first half goals. The visitors from IK Franke rallied briefly in the second half but a quick fire double from Håbo one of which saw the visiting keeper dismissed ensured the points were staying deservedly with the host club. Björkvallen is a relatively basic Idrottsplats style ground, the officials and visitors change in a building outside the ground for example, and these limitations could hamper the progress of this rapidly rising club.

Sweden Div. 2 Norra Svealand (06/06/2016)

Håbo FF 6 (Kristiansson 19, 29, 82, Aras 23, Danilo 32, Yilmaz pen 81)
IK Franke 2 (Applefeldt 51, pen 71)

Att: 615 (at Björkvallen)

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After heading south we arrive at the impressive Södertalje Futbollarena which plays host to two clubs with their roots firmly in the Assyrian community which first starting arriving in the city in 1967, fleeing from conflicts in Turkey, Iraq and Syria. Over 40% of the cities’ population is from an immigrant background so it is no surprise that two clubs, Assyriska (1973) and Syrianska (1977) have flourished, the later enjoying three seasons in the Allsvenskan. The stadium was opened in 2005 and boasts one enormous stand with open terracing on the opposite side and a segregated section for away fans. This afternoon’s match is a Superettan game between Assyriska and GAIS from Gothenburg. A modest crowd gathers for this game and a well contested encounter is enjoyed by all especially when the hosts level with an injury time penalty when the GAIS captain inexplicably concedes an unnecessary foul.

Sweden Superettan (06/06/2016)

Assyriska FF 2 (Söderström 34, pen 90)
GAIS 2 (Singh 21, Moënza 63)

Att: 1,308 (at Södetalje Futbollarena)

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Tuesday evening sees a Tunnelbana ride east to the suburb of Hässelby where you will find Grimsta Idrottsplats home of IF Brommapojkarna, officially the world’s biggest football club! This claim is based on over 3,000 registered players for its 250 teams! The team have suffered a double relegation since the heady days of a return to Allsvenskan in 2012. Now in Division 1 Norra the team is coached by former Aston Villa legend Olof Mellberg. They sit top of the division and on tonight’s evidence of a totally dominant performance against Akropolis, few would seriously bet against a swift return to the Superettan. Grimsta was opened in 1963 and despite periodic refurbishment had always had just one stand running the length of one side of the pitch. Now though a new main stand is partially erected on the opposite side of the ground. Now looking like a proper stadium rather than an idrottsplats hopefully the investment will see BP return to the higher levels of the Swedish game.

Sweden Div.1 Norra (07/06/2016)

IF Brommapojkarna 3 (Brandeborn 32, 74, Gustafsson pen 90)
Akropolis IF 0

Att: 738 (Grimsta IP)

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The trip then heads to Finland and a much cooler Helsinki, draped in heavy cloud it’s not looking its finest when the top level Veikkausliiga runs a full midweek programme on Thursday evening. The game of choice is IFK Helsingfors against PK-35 Vantaa now managed by Shefki Kuqi. IFK, or Idrottsföreningen Kamraterna i Helsingfors, are an old club having been formed in 1897. Known by the nickname “Stadens stolthet” (The city’s pride) the club were originally solely patronised by the Swedish speaking middle classes while the Finns traditionally support their great rivals HJK. After seven Mestaruussarja titles IFK suffered severe financial problems in 2002 and had to take the place of their reserve team at level five. To their immense credit they have regrouped, opened a share issue for fans to invest, and have ultimately returned to the top flight after winning the Ykkönen Liga in 2014. IFK were playing at the Töölön Pallokenttä but following top flight promotion the club have groundshared with HJK at the 10,700 seater Sonera Stadium which is adjacent to the Olympic Stadium.

Tonight’s game, however, is a poor one for the hosts despite some great vocal backing from their supporters. Vantaa are two goals to the good, including one from the manager’s kid brother Njazi before IFK even muster a chance. The hosts pull one back in the second half but really look like a side who don’t believe they can score a second time.

Finland Veikkausliiga (09/06/2016)

IFK Helsingfors 1 (Salmikivi 53)
PK-35 Vantaa 2 (Kaufmann 12, Kuqi 41)

Att: 2,816 (at Sonera Stadion)

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Another day, another country and a ferry crossing the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn and two games in the murky nether regions of Estonian football.

The first game takes place in the 3G ground adjacent to the Kalevi Keskstaadion, home of Estonian Esiliiga (second tier) side JK Tallinna Kalev. It’s a fifth tier match tonight between Castovanni Eagles and JK Retro who are an interesting team almost entirely made up of ex Estonian internationals including 89 cap Andrei Stepanov who once played two minutes for Watford. They are managed by Erko Saviauk who himself won 60 caps and play purely for fun these days. This point is stretched as they start with ten men until 45 year old, 3 cap, Arvo Kraam arrived belatedly in a speeding taxi 25 minutes into the first half! With even numbers the ageing but more skilful veterans begin to outclass their younger, fitter opponents and eventually claim a deserved victory with a late winner.

Estonia III Liga (10/06/2016)

Tallinna Castovanni Eagles 1 (Naariste 66)
JK Retro 2 (Rist 60, Silkin 85)

Att: 9 (at Kalevi Keskstaadion Kunstmuruväljak)

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Saturday brings a 12pm kick off in the Wismari Staadion, a short walk past the magnificent Aleksandr Nevski cathedral. The Wismari is normally the home of JK Tallinna Legion, however, this match is between Tallinna Dünamo and Lokomotiv Jöhvi who have travelled some 100 miles for this fourth level match. The pitch is again 3G though the surface is in poor condition and the surroundings are vastly inferior to those of the previous evening. Lokomotiv are far too strong for the side from the capital and win easily, barely breaking sweat.

Estonia II Liga (11/06/2016)

Tallinna Dünamo 0
Lokomotiv Jöhvi 4 (Vender 36, Makarov 44, Smirnov 64, Bazjukin 68)

Att:41 (at Wismari Staadion)

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There you have it a thoroughly enjoyable extension to the annual pilgrimage to Sweden. Great part of the world to enjoy summer football on warm days!

Keeping What’s Good (KFCO Beerschot-Wilrijk)

The original Beerschot club, Koninklijke Beerschot Voetbal en Atletiek Club, were formed in 1899, matricule 13, and had a glorious history including being seven time Belgian champions. From 1920 the club used the Antwerp Olympic Stadium, also known as Het Kiel (named after the district), as its home ground. The late 1960’s and 1970’s were a golden period for Beerschot as they often qualified for European competition. However, by 1999 the old club were consumed with financial problems and ended their centennial year my merging with Germinal Ekeren from the north of the city. The fused club called itself Germinal Beerschot and kept Ekeren’s matricule number of 3530 in order to maintain a place in the First Division.

The merger was attractive to Ekeren as their progress was being hampered by the restrictive confines of their ground at Veltwijckstadion. Germinal Beerschot adopted the purple colours of the old Beerschot VAC club and the yellow and red of Ekeren. Initially the merger was a success with a Belgian Cup win in 2005 and several sortie in European competitions. Germinal Beerschot changed its name in 2011 to Beerschot Antwerpen Club however just two seasons later Beerschot AC were no more. Liquidation followed their failure to present the Belgian FA with a suitable financial plan to secure a First Division operating licence.

After the collapse of Beerschot AC an unofficial merger took place with KFCO Wilrijk to produce the current club. KFC Wilrijk had been formed in 1921 and has the matricule number 155. The club enjoyed a brief stint in the Second Division in the 1930’s but spent most of their existence in either the third tier or in provincial football. In 1993 KFC Wilrijk merged with Olympia Wilrijk 72 forming KFC Olympia Wilrijk.

In order to tap into the traditional support of Beerschot, the newly merged club adopted Beerschot’s purple colours and took over the tenancy of the Olympisch Stadion. They adopted the Latin motto “Tene Quod Bene” which translates as “keep what is good”. Wise words indeed given their tempestuous recent history. The new club’s first game was in the Antwerpen Provincial League (level 5) against Ternesse VV and produced a crowd of 8,500 a record for the provincial leagues.

The new club won the Antwerp League in 2013/14 and the Promotion League in 2014/15 to climb into Division Three (Group B) for the current season. Today’s visitors are Hoogstraten VV who are perilously close to the relegation places. The hosts have continued to dominate the league and lead the table four points ahead of nearest rivals Oosterwijk. It is no surprise then that the hosts enjoy an easy win against a very lacklustre visiting team. Enjoying almost total possession the only surprise is Beerschot settle for just two goals, one in either half. On the evidence of this afternoon, few will back against Beerschot achieving a third straight promotion.

The Olympisch Stadion is less than half full today but still generates a good level of noise particularly in the main stand. Antwerp was the host city of the seventh modern Olympiad in 1920. The stadium hosted Athletics, hockey, gymnastics, equestrianism, rugby union, korfball as well as football. Many of the football matches had to be held elsewhere and the other venues used were the then newly opened Stade Joseph Marien in Brussels, Gent’s Jules Ottenstadion and the Stadion Broodstraat in Antwerp.

The Olympisch Stadion is thought to have significant input from legendary stadium architect Archibald Leitch as it is documented that he made several consultation visits to the site before it was opened. It was officially opened on May 23rd 1920 and had a sizeable capacity for the time of 27,250. The original stadium was oval in shape but much of the original stadium was demolished and replaced with three new stands in 1978. The modern day stadium has a capacity of 12,771 and is ideal for the sizeable support of Beerschot, a club with long associations with Antwerp’s bourgeoisie.

Beerschot badge

Sunday November 8th 2015 – Third Division, Group B

KFCO Beerschot-Wilrijk (1) 2 (Ventôse 24, Vansimpsen 65)
Hoogstraten VV (0) 0

Att: 5,804 (at Olympisch Stadion)

Admission: €15

Programme: None

Gallery

The original Antwerp Olympisch Stadion, one of Archibald Leitch’s lesser known attributions.

interior

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Beerschot4.

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Beerschot ticket