European Tour Hoopvan: Athens derby, duel of eternal enemies
2022 ends a few days late with a Christmas present: a tantalizing derby between two behemoths of Greek basketball, Panathinaikos and Olympiakos. It is inevitable among the most beautiful rivalries in Europe.
You can read about it throughout the 2022-23 season Basketball Europe The Adventures of Adriannicknamed Hoopvan, a basketball enthusiast who traveled 15,000 km across the old continent in a van specially equipped for the sport of his passion.
Since 1992 and the coronation of PAOK Thessaloniki, no club outside the capital has won the title of Greek champion. Over the last thirty seasons, 20 wins for Panathinaikos, 9 for Olympiakos… and once for another sports club from Piraeus, AEK Athens. And that goes back to 2002, forever. The latter, in particular, won the European Cup at the Panathenaic Stadium in 1968, an unforgettable moment in front of more than 80,000 spectators, and he remains one of the only reliable outsiders to the Greek championship title to this day. far away from its two competitors in terms of fame and competition.
The commitment and passion that Olympiakos and Panathinaikos incite is found in the city. On almost every street corner you can see the identity of one of the two by the stickers. It seems that PAO’s clover is the most represented. Obviously, the emblems, Gate 7, the cloverleaf, 13, abbreviations are not specific to basketball. This rivalry exists in other sports as well, including football, which offers us great derbies!
A derby in numbers of eternal enemies
Panathinaikos : 160 wins (55.2%)
Olympiakos : 130 wins (44.8%)
Some players passed by two clubs : Vassilis Spanoulis, Dino Rajda, Ioannis Bourousis, Ioannis Papapetrou, Michalis Lountzis, Alexander Volkov, Giorgi Shermadini, Damir Mulaomerovic
Although it is already the 290th in history, every derby of the eternals is expected. As is often the case in this derby of the eternals, the poster for this 30 December 2022 was sold out within hours of the opening of the ticket office, ten days before the match. OAKA will be packed with over 19,000 fans. Every basketball fan knows more or less what to expect.
D-Day: Clash of the Greek Colossus
December 30, 2022. D-day, derby day. Athens wakes up and is already waiting for the final battle of the year between the two Greek basketball giants. As with any major conflict, a little prevention is necessary: a ban on the use of lasers, a great deal of trouble in Greece and a call to respect the different players in the match. Another tip is that opening the gates three hours before the match is a good way to gauge the heat of the match.
You came to the room, it is not easy to find your place. English is not common here. Plan B: I communicate with signs. After security checks, I enter the magnificent building of OAKA, which was built for the 2004 Athens Olympics – two hours before the start. The fans are already screaming in the stands, which shows how passionate this derby is! While waiting for the match to start, the ultras prepare the room by hanging many banners on the barriers separating the different stands. The first players enter the field to cheers or whistles depending on their camp.
After the briefing in the dressing room, the players return to the field. The interval has not yet been given, but the room is full and the atmosphere is already very warm. The derby is much better than the game on the field. Just getting to the start means missing half the show!
We see many personalities arrive in the court yard. Others include Stojko Vrankovic, who won the Euroleague with Pana in 2007, and Ioannis Papapetrou, a former member of the house who now plays for Partizan Belgrade. But at the same time, Monaco players Mike James and Donta Hall came to see their old teammates Paris Lee and Dwayne Bacon during the holidays. The room has been taken over by the greens and whites, and there are no Olympiakos supporters in the stands. The songs don’t stop, the room is behind his team.
Now that all the supporters are in the room, we see those on high come down and take their places on the lower rungs of the stairs. So there is a human wall in front of the field. After the presentation of the teams, everyone stretches their arms forward and “Horto Magiko” sounds in the stands! Magical! Best fan song ever? Among the best, no doubt. Continuation of the official protocol with the anthem of the Euroleague and the venue of the match.
Olympiakos has the first possession and Panathinaikos has the first point. This first quarter is typical for both teams: on the one hand, a collective game to find easy baskets, and on the other hand, a game based on strong individuality and even individual exploitation. This is the beginning of the game. Everyone in the stands rises to celebrate every point Pana scores. Olympiakos had the upper hand at the end of the quarter, especially the French Moustapha Fall’s big start to the match (20-26), which Pana couldn’t find.
The “red-whites”, without their best player Sasha Vezenkov, can always count on their great play without the ball. The chemistry of this team and the well-oiled collective put in place by Georgios Bartzokas allow them to lead. All the shortcomings of pan are used beautifully. Despite the disappointment over the turn of the match, the voices of the supporters can still be heard in the stands. We expect a reaction, OAKA is ready to explode and support any start of rebellion from the players on the field. The return to the dressing room is complicated (36-53), another face is expected in the second half.
Return to the floor with the same starting five … for the same result. Pan cannot chain defensive stops. Attitudes on the ground are clearly not encouraging for a comeback. At half-time, this derby looks so tilted that the level difference is palpable. The Olympiakos show continues with an irresistible fall. The international tricolor will finish the competition with 19 points and 9 rebounds.
Even though it’s hard to support his team in such circumstances, sometimes the shouting goes on. The expected intensity, desire, perseverance, fighting spirit, all these values are missing in the derby and the match turns out to be a disaster for PAO. End of 3rd quarter: 50-73.
A two-minute intermission before the final act allows the first supporters to leave the room. The difference in level is obvious, but the course of the match is a task. There is no team cohesion and that is the biggest criticism we can give to this team on the day. There was no relationship, and fans noted it. In the last quarter and with 8 minutes to go, all the banners in the stands were removed, and there was a continuous line of fans leaving the room to express their displeasure. There was no more interest in the game, the match ended very long… it ended with a score of 71-95.
The scene at the final whistle is nothing short of amazing! Many Ultras throw stuffed cups towards the Olympiakos players’ bench, while the Pana players whistle loudly. In such matches, we feel the importance of local players or even players with special ties to experienced clubs. Club president Dimitris Giannakopoulos will be the first to react after this heavy defeat, announcing the various changes expected in the coming days.
Comparison with Belgrade derby
The Partizan – Etoile Rouge poster received more media coverage as it was a first in the Euroleague. In terms of pre-game atmosphere, the two derbies are equal. People prepare more than two hours before the start of the game and there is almost continuous chanting for an hour before the start of the match, each time with a warm welcome from the home team. The first difference is in the stands where we start the match standing in Serbia and sitting in Greece, this trend is also observed in other matches I have participated in these countries.
During the encounter, the room unites and different songs are played. We can deplore the virulence of referees blowing the wrong whistle, but that’s part of the show.
The turn the match takes has a strong influence on the atmosphere. That’s the difference between the two derbies I managed. I have little doubt that the Greek derby will boil over, but the way this match played out didn’t help me have the experience I was hoping for, I was left with a lot of disappointment.
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