Football without Borders #33: Olympiacos vs Panathinaikos, classic with unique fanaticism - 01/14/2022

Next Sunday (16), one of the classics with the greatest rivalry in the world will be up for grabs. Olympiacos and Panathinaikos face each other for the Greek Championship and put on the field a long history of a fanaticism found in few parts of the planet.

No podcast Football Without Borders #33 (Listen in full in the episode above), columnist Julio Gomes and international correspondent Jamil Chade spoke with Zé Elias, a commentator for ESPN channels. The former player recalled some moments of his time at Olympiacos and details of the rivalry with Panathinaikos.

Jamil spoke a little about the off-field side of the rivalry between the two clubs. “This classic also has a social component. Panathinaikos is older, from central Athens. What catches my attention is that Olympiacos managed to win over the fans from other parts of Greece, who felt perhaps a little humiliated, despised by the elite of Athens. Olympiacos is from another city [Pireus], but gains supporters from the rest of Greece. There is a very centralizing situation in Athens. It is not a normal capital of Brazil or another big country. It is a capital that sums up much of the country. There is, then, this curious alliance of other regions of the country with Olympiacos”, he said.

In terms of sports, the two clubs also have a peculiarity. “There is another curious division. Olympiacos has won more Greek titles than Panathinaikos [46 a 20], which does better in European leagues”, commented Jamil. “In my time, Olympiacos was well marked because of that. The difference was very big between the teams, but when we went to European competitions, we just took a beating”, added the former player.

Zé Elias played for Olympiacos between 2000 and 2003 and won three Greek titles. But the former midfielder highlights another ‘cup’ for the Piraeus team. “I was fortunate enough to catch a magical moment from Olympiacos. We had a very strong team and a good moment. Sometimes you have a good team, but it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. During the time I was there, the dressing room was quiet and I won three titles. I was one of the captains of the team and this is a milestone, because hardly a foreigner becomes captain”, he emphasized.

Julio highlighted that Olympiacos’ superiority in national titles was strengthened from the mid-1990s, when the team practically gave no chances to opponents. “Olympiacos’ domestic dominance is very large. This was somehow balanced until the mid-1990s. From 97 onwards, there were 21 titles. In this century, there is no dispute. Curiously, in basketball it is the opposite: Panathinaikos is more strong”, he commented, noting that the rivalry also extends to other sports.

At the moment, Olympiacos leads the Greek Championship with an impeccable campaign. The team is undefeated in the tournament and, after 16 rounds, they have won 42 points – 13 wins and three draws. They are nine points ahead of AEK, in second place, and 16 ahead of Panathinaikos, fourth. In the first round, playing at home, the Piraeus team was 0-0 with the rival.

The former player detailed the context surrounding the Greek classic. “In my time, 55%, 60% of the country supported Olympiacos and there were divisions in the rest. There was a lot of rivalry centered in Athens, polarized between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos. [na Sérvia], Fenerbahce x Galatasaray [na Turquia], where the guys are really fanatical”, he said.

Zé Elias, who had a remarkable stint at Corinthians, showed that, even on classic days against Palmeiras, he didn’t feel the same for what he went through in Olympiacos x Panathinaikos. “When I went to Greece, I returned to Brazil multiplied by a million. It’s a fanaticism, a passion, hard to find elsewhere. The Greeks live for the team. It’s a different way of living. Off the field, it’s a climate It was very heavy. You breathed violence, passion, and there was no way around it. You took it to the countryside”, he concluded.

listen to the podcast Football without Borders and also check out the chat about the similarities between Greeks and Brazilians and some tourism tips in one of the countries with the richest history in the world.

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