Bulgaria Southern Second Division


From the distance of time, the Bulgarian championship appears in good health, even at its peak – 40 clubs in the second division (soon to be increased to 44), and dramatic first division championship, decided in the last round. And the decisive match was a derby between the best clubs – Levski-Spartak and CSKA. But numbers and drama look better now then in real time. Second division clearly indicated stagnation – the league, divided into two groups of 20 each, provided mostly a room for so-so teams. With two-three good players they were able to stay in mid-table for years. Hardly any club really tried to build a strong squad – the solution of any problem was simply getting a couple of good players from elsewhere. In turn, many players preferred to offer their services to some unambitious small club and live in tranquility for awhile, knowing that no much effort was required from them. With good players dispersed among 40 clubs, there was no concentration of talent anywhere and even the winners were shaky. This affected the quality of first division as well, for the newly promoted clubs were seen as outsiders and likeliest candidates for relegation the next year. Meantime, a few previously strong clubs were in decline and the promising young squads of others were simply that – a promise. The biggest two suffered as well – both had hard time finding new strong players, the rebuilding of CSKA was not going well for quite some time, and now Levski had similar problem. And climbing to the top of the pyramid, the problems were very clear – the Bulgarian national team suffered defeats and was very unstable. Players came and went, often old ‘discarded’ stars were recalled again in desperation. The dramatic end of the championship was great, but hardly enough to cover deeply embedded ills.

The Southern Second Division was ‘decided’ even before the championship started: there was no competition. The few clubs from big cities, which played top league, did that in very distant time and were in decline for years. No other club was rising… thus Minyor (Pernik), relegated in 1977 from top flight, was seen as a sure winner. Of course, there were ups and downs in the league: Rozova dolina (Kazanlak) was steadily among the best teams for a third consecutive season. Dimitrovgrad, once upon a time a member of first division, also climbed up. Another club from a small town, Chepinetz (Velingrad), bravely competed for second place – and lost it to Dimitrovgrad on goal-difference. But none was a potential candidate for promotion and the reason was obvious, when one looks at their squads: Dimitrovgrad depended on two players – the defender Rasho Rashev (formerly of Beroe) and Stoil Trankov (one of the ‘eternal’ reserves of CSKA in the early 1970s). A third player eventually had a very strong season – the 20-years old goalkeeper Vlado Delchev, who was in CSKA the year before, but never played a match and was dispatched to second division. It was clear that Delchev was not going to stay in Dimitrovgrad – and he did not. Rozova dolina was the same – two or three known names, who did not make it in top flight, but had enough talent and experience to keep the team among the top. Chepinetz was the same – the veteran defender Vangel Delev was their star, playing his last days after years with Trakia (Plovdiv). The rest of the league was the same, which pretty much explains why clubs from small towns performed relatively well.

Clubs like Slivnishky geroy (Slivnitza). They finished 9th, which was yet another solid season for them. For a small city, it was great – they were among the good teams in the second division and dreaming of something bigger was unrealistic. As long as they were not threatened with relegation, everything was fine.

No wonder Minyor (Pernik) were considered without competition: to the two-three ‘stars’ of the other clubs, they opposed astonishing number of 7, including one the best Bulgarian sweepers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Evlogy Banchev, often included in the national team. Sheer numbers made the difference… Minyor won as predicted, leaving the rest of the league far behind, and securing promotion earlier than the winners of the Northern group. Confident superiority? By the numbers – yes. Minyor finished with 50 points, 6 more than second placed Dimitrovgrad. They also scored the most goals in both second division groups – 71.

The team returning to top flight after 2 years in the purgatory. Dressed in unusual white shirts too – actually, the coaches are dressed in the standard yellow-black. Curiously, Malinov is the captain here – not Banchev, who captained them for years. Standing from left: Dimitar Kontev – coach, Amgel Slavov, Evlogy Banchev, Aleksandar Aleksandrov, Simeon Velinov, Krassimir Kovachev, Vladimir Naydenov, Georgy Ganev, Ivan Todorov, Slave Malinov, Petar Stefanov – assistant coach.

First row: Svetlin Slavov, Grigor Grigorov, Georgy Yordanov, Valentin Boyanov, Lyusien Baltov, Georgy Dorbrev, Zhorzh Staykov, Krassimir Kirilov.

The winners were not really strong and their potential was more than questionable. In post-season interview, their coach Kontev spoke with more than reservations: the key note of his answers was instability and he listed about half of his starters as moody. He praised only his three stars – Banchev, Yordanov,and Slavov, and cautiously spoke of the future – his players were young, he said, they had some potential which could be developed. He hoped not to make some impact in first division, but to survive. The uneven squad forced the coach to use very unusual tactical scheme – unusual for late 70s, unusual for a winning team, and unusual even for the traditions of Minyor:

5-3-2, with 2 sweepers, center-forward moved back as playmaker, and no left winger. Kontev hardly had a better option… his stars were aging, his better players were defenders, and he had a goalkeeper, described largely as ‘a good person’. At 28, Naydenov had plenty of experience, but his best days were already in quite a distant past – 4 years ago. He settled for comfortable mediocrity, knowing very well that he had no competition. Malinov, #2, was formerly a right full back, transformed into a sweeper. 33-years old, he was one of the most experienced players of the team with over 200 matches in first division. Tall and with intimidating look, Malinov was actually not tough defender at all and was afraid of moving into attack. Very rarely and reluctantly he joined attacking efforts, preferring to stay deep back. The other sweeper was entirely different – Banchev, also 33 years old with 200 matches in top flight, was not only a great defender, but a modern one too – he frequently went ahead and scored goals. Normally he played with number 3, but for some reason used number 5 this season. Long time captain of the team and inspiring leader, Banchev was one of the only three players really praised by their coach. As for the unusual duo of sweepers, the reason most likely was aging and the absence of good playmaker – Kontev had to improvise and with Malinov firmly in the back there was a sense of security. Banchev was free to go ahead and help midfield and attack and if slow in returning, there was a cover. Ganev, #3, was the right full back. 25-years old, he was half-praised by Kontev for having no problems with his form. Alas, his abilities were limited… he was already considered run-of-the-mill player, reaching his best a few years back when he played briefly for Levski. The left full back was a trouble – Todorov was considered a regular, his greatest asset was energetic play. However, an injury took him out for a bit of the season. He never established himself as firm regular – and was dismissed after the end of the season. The midfield was entirely uncertain – Dobrev, #8, was placed as something between a stopper and defensive midfielder. Like Ganev, he played for Levski a few years back and let go – at 24, he was also run-of-the-mill and nothing better was expected of him. As a playmaker, he was nothing – perhaps that’s why Kontev moved him further back. Kovachev (#11) and Boyanov (#6) were playing at the sides of the midfield line – both were young: Kovachev was only 20, and Boyanov – 22 – but not really promising players. They also lacked experience. Kovachev was more attacking kind of midfielder, Boyanov struggled to keep regular place. With shaky and pedestrian midfielders, the center-forward Yordanov (#9) was moved back to organize attacks. Partly, the move was dictated by his age – at 31 he was no longer the energetic striker of few years back. Vastly experienced with nearly 250 first division appearances in whihche scored about 70 goals, he contributed still well to the team’s effort, but there was a bitter taste too: without him in front, Minyor’s attack was less dangerous. With him in front … he was getting slow and not effective as before, but the real trouble was that there was nobody to actually organize attacks and give him a ball to score. At the end, Yordanov played back, as a midfielder, which left the attack disjointed – there was no center-forward and the left wing Angel Slavov (#10) was given freedom to operate on vast front, covering as center-forward. 26- years old, technical, strong, and very dependable player Slavov was one of the stars of Minyor and adored by fans. A star, but a local one… his perhaps greatest time was 4 years back, when he was taken by CSKA. And soon dismissed… May be not star on national scale, but certainly the best striker Minyor had – he scored a lot and generally was the most dangerous player of the team. The other striker was a right winger – 22-years old Baltov, who showed some promise, but was not expected to become a great player. To a point, he was just completing the starting team, stitched to the right wing, which limited the strength of the attack: better defenses concentrated on Slavov, and with him covered well, Baltov was rather useless – he was not a scorer, nor skillful enough to penetrate the enemy lines. He was mostly running on the wing and passing a high ball in front of the gate – monotonous, predictable, and hardly dangerous. The reserves were even weaker than the starters – only one was regularly used. Grigor Grigorov, a versatile player, able to play as a left full back and as midfielder, 21 years old. A physical player, hearty, usually in excellent condition, but lacking technical skills. Age was not the whole reason he was left as back-up player – rather, the constant problems of a moody and not so great squad. He was the only one able to cover different positions – so Kontev used him wherever there was an urgent need. Without even slightest competition in the second division, Minyor’s squad and tactics worked, but it was clear the club urgently needed new players – and many. The veterans were inevitably approaching retirement and there was nothing much behind them. Not even reserves at the weak level of the regulars. In fact, only one player became a known name – Grigor Grigorov. The rest were quickly forgotten.


Greece The Cup

Well, they were going to repeat that, reaching the Cup final. The other finalist was lowly… Panionios (Athens). A club without a single trophy in their very long history and not one of the big clubs either. Modest boys… fretting over relegation. They were 14th in league, escaping relegation by measly 2 points. They had one of weakest attack line this season and not much of a defense. The Cup was in the bag… of Panionios. 3-1!

Surprise Cup winners and getting a trophy at last. Panionios was one of ‘expelled’ clubs – like AEK and PAOK, it was found in Turkey. And very long time ago – in 1890. It was originally located in the city of Smyrna – Izmir – and moved to Greece in 1922 as part of the post-war exchange of population with Turkey. The emigrants from Smyrna settled in their own neighbourhood in Athens – Nea Smyrna – and the club too was based there. And that was all until 1979 and their famous victory.

With their first ever trophy – the joy was endless!

And still hard to believe for some… but the Cup was in their hands. A fine hour for the underdog. The heroes were not much as a team, but not entirely anonymous – they had some well known players.

Noni Lima, Mavrikis, and Anastopoulos greet the fans after winning the trophy. Mavrikis was just a local hero, but the other two were something else. Nikos Anastopoulos, 22 years old striker, was already making a name for himself. Rapidly improving, he became of the best Greek strikers in the 1980s and he was one of the very rare Greek players to attract the interest of foreign clubs at the time – he eventually played in Italy, but he was already a national team player in 1979. Of course, a new star was not to last in a modest club… and he did not last long. Noni Lima, from Cape Verde, was laready one of the respected and loved players in Greece – he arrived in 1977 and settled well. He was also loyal to Panionios, quickly becoming their star – and is a legend today. The two stars did not disapoint at the final – they scored one goal each. Interestingly, Noni Lima did not score at all during the championship – his sole goal this year came at the most important match, however. Right on target. The last curiosity was the coach – Panionios was one of few clubs in the league employing a Greek coach. A special Greek too, as becoming to an emigrant club – Panos Markovic. The name is no Greek… he was born in Drama, which had big Bulgarian population and still many people there are of Bulgarian descent. The name is more Serbian, but who knows – a full-blooded Greek he was obviously not, and one ‘displaced’ brought the victory to the other ‘displaced’ – a perfect match. A great season for Panionios. Well, their greatest, for this is still there only trophy.

Greece I Division

A rather typical season of the Greek first division. One hopeless outsider – Panserraikos (Serres).

Pansseraikos managed exactly ½ of the points of the 17th in the league… 13. Four wins, 5 ties, and 25 games they lost. The last place was firmly theirs.

Not so for the spot just above last: 8 clubs tried to avoid it.

Egaleo (Athens) was unable to escape. They got 26 points, but needed 2 more to survive.

Four clubs had rather comfortable season – no worries at all, no ambitions either.

PAS Giannina deserves a mention. Not because they impressed – they finished 13th – but because of the curious team they maintained – the flock of South Americans kept them afloat and more: these players became more than local heroes – Oscar Alvarez already established himself as a very respected player, good enough to be desired – and taken – by Panathinaikos. At least one more followed in his steps. Giannina replaced the lost players with new South Americans – a possible new jewels for the league, or at least for the club. Interesting approach, involving scams with names and ‘roots’ for sure, but so far working and facing no protests. Perhaps because Giannina were modest club never threatening the status quo.

So, 5 clubs remained to claim top spots. Well… not really, for they were divided into 3 separate groups.

Panathinaikos suffered this year – very unusual for them. They were still far above the bulk of the league, yet not anywhere near to the title contenders.

Standing from left: Achileas Aslanidis, Vasilis Konstantinou, Nikos Kovis, Demetris Kizas, Takis Elefteriadis, Kostas Elefterakis.

Crouching: Walter Wagner (West Germany), Spiros Livatinos, Oscar Alvarez (Argentina), Christos Terzanidis, Stelios Stefanakis.

Panathinaikos had to rebuild, this was obvious a few years already. And they tried, but it was not working. The new boys were neither new, nor very young – the rebuilding was questionable largely because legends were exchanged for slightly younger players, who did not deliver. Domazos and Antoniadis were replaced just before the season started with Delikaris and Wagner. Wagner was so-so, but Delikaris, who came as a superstar, did not even become a regular. The transfers misfired. Still, the team was full of national team players – Aslanidis, Konstantinou, Livatinos, Terzanidis. Kostas Elefterakis, nicknamed ‘The Deer’, was no longer used by the national team, but still was one of the biggest Greek stars and almost the last one of the great European Champions Cup finalists to play for the club. Not very old either – only 28. Talent was recruited from elsewhere too – Greece permitted only two foreign players to play in a game, but… there were more, because they were considered Greek : Dimitris Kizas, a national team player of Cyprus, and the ethnic Greek born in Turkey, and Turkish citizen – Nikos Kovis. And another foreign player was bolted to the bench: the mysterious Antonio Gomez Benitez. On the surface, it was a squad capable of winning the championship, guided by Kazimierz Gorski. But the newcomers did not impress, may be Gorski was not really up to expectations either – he was seemingly going downhill since 1974 – but whatever was the reason, Panathinaikos settled at 5th place. 4 points ahead of the 6th, thus far above the bulk of the league, but 7 points behind PAOK, 4th this year, and they were not even close to the bronze medalists. A disastrous season for Panathinaikos.

PAOK, champions in 1976, were now good only for 4th position. They left Panathinaikos in the dust, but nothing else – with 45 points PAOK was 5 points behind their city rivals Aris.

Strong season for Aris – normally, they were among the top 6-7 clubs in the league, but not medalists. This year – bronze.

A big success, to be sure. Especially after leaving their arch-enemy, PAOK, far behind. Yet… it was good only locally… Aris were not in the race for the title at all: they ended 6 points behind the silver medalists.

It boiled down to the familiar duel between two clubs – Olympiakos was ever-present contender and their opponents, although not Panathinaikos this year, were still obvious suspects: the 3rd big club of the country – AEK (Athens), who started the championship as reigning champions. Now, Olympiakos seemingly made the same mistake as Panathinaikos – they exchanged their beloved superstar Delikaris for the legendary striker Antoniadis and were the worse for it. Like Delikaris, Antoniadis did not capture the hearts of the fans and perhaps did not really want to play for Olympiakos. Perhaps trade between arch-enemies should never be done – neither club benefited. But unlike Panathinaikos, Olympiakos did not drop down. Not a bit, in fact – they finished with exactly the same points AEK earned: 56. Then foggy thing happened: nowadays the final table suggests that the championship was decided by goal-difference. Normal practice and no sweat: Olympiakos had inferior one by far. There is no suggestion for different rule – but in the historic part of their official website AEK claim that there was to be a decisive play-off between the contenders after the season. Olympiakos failed to show and AEK won the title. This is almost unbelievable – Olympiakos, otherwise second, suddenly had a chance to win the championship and refused to play? Out of fear? Impossible – AEK were pretty much equal opponent. Hard to believe Olympiakos missed an opportunity and was left empty-handed for a second year in a row. Was it some kind of scandal, which the Greek Federation chose to keep under lid and never mention? Who knows… the fact is Olympiakos finished second and their position makes perfect sense: their goal-difference was 63-27; AEK’s – 90-30.

Perhaps a lucky victory, but victory. A second consecutive title for AEK – their 7th altogether.

A tied race to be sure, quite dramatic, but AEK were strong: they lost only 3 mathces (Olympiakos lost 4) and won 25. They scored 90 goals in 34 games. They allowed only 30 goals in their own net. Obviously in great form – which normally means good coach. Ferenc Puskas was at the helm this season, replacing Zlatko Cajkovski, but… he was fired -or left on his own – in the spring-half of the season. Strange… the fans seemingly think him instrumental for the victory today and the club does not criticize Puskas either. What really happened? Does it matter? AEK still won the title.

Champions again – considering the big transfers of the summer of 1978, AEK was the least likeliest winner. They got Mimis Domazos, 36-old veteran, most likely at the end of his wits. Not a big improvement, it seemed – especially because at the same position AEK another 36-old veteran: their own hero Mimis Papaioannou. Yet, it was solid team, one of the best in Greece – lethal attack: Thomas Mavros (who ended as the league’s best goalscorer), the Yugoslav star Dusan Bajevic, the Uruguayan Milton Viera, already very successful in Greece, and Tasos Konstantinou. Very strong midfield too – Papaioannou, Christos Ardizoglou, Takis Nikoloudis , and newly acquired Domazos; they had at least one strong defender – Christos Intzoglou; and experienced, solid goalkeeper – Lakis Stergioudas. On the surface, a squad may be a bit weaker than what Olympiakos and Panathinaikos had , but may be with a bit of luck… It was more than luck – Mimis Domazos settled at once – the change brought new life to him and he had a splendid season. The rest were in excellent form too. At the end it amazing: Papaioannou collected his 5th title (all with AEK), Milton Viera also his 5th (three with Olympiakos), but Domazos won his 10th! Nine were won with Panathinaikos, of course, but what a debut – a champion right away. Historic numbers, very hard to match – and also bringing the last laugh to AEK: some old horses they got, discarded by Panathinaikos and Olympiakos! It was wonderful – but a little less wonderful than the previous year. Back then AEK won a double.

Greece Second Division

Greek football had old problems, not really addressed, but covered instead. Corruption was perhaps the biggest problem, never really talked about and addressed properly. Evidence of it was largely found in the lower leagues… 7 clubs from the 2 Second Division groups had points deducted in 1978-79 – and points are deducted as penalties for infringement. But what the clubs were guilty of? Hard to tell… Pierikos had two points deducted for fixing games. Nothing is said about the rest of the penalized clubs, but A.O. Panarkadikos Tripolis ended with 6 points deducted. If 2 points were taken for fixing games, one wonders what this club did to be penalized three times the bribers. Except Pierikos, all clubs were lowly, 5 in the relegation zone – and relegated after all. On the surface, acceptable: trying to escape relegation, the clubs tried everything, but… practically all were still to be relegated even without penalties. Only A.O. Panarkadikos Tripolis would have been safe if 6 points were not deducted from their record. If match fixing was so wide spread, then the clubs involved must have been more – especially mid-table clubs, not worrying about anything and therefore ready to get some extra cash in exchange for the odd point. There was only one such club – Trikala. What made almost no sense at all was the penalty of the only club accused of fixing games: Pierikos finished third in the Northern Group . Looked like they tried to won promotion by illegal means. The problem is they were not in the race for the first place at all – even with full points, they were not only to finish third, but still 9 points behind the 3nd placed Olympiakos (Volos). Most likely, they decided to earn some money and offered their ‘services’ to the willing parties – but it was unlikely they were the only club: 5 clubs were penalized in the Northern Group, so match fixing appeared wide spread. But only the relegated were punished – a cover-up more than real effort to clean the game. And only second division teams were penalized – First Division was apparently ‘clean’. Was it? Most likely all depended on pulling strings, clout, scheming, and may be political influence.

Clean or not, the second division had its season – a massive affair, involving 40 clubs. 20 in each sub-division.

AO Korinthos won the Southern Group – 4 points ahead of the nearest pursuer and with excellent record – +55 goals testified for their superiority. They were going up, a rather rare achievement of the club. The real test for them was still in the future – the next year they had to try to survive among the big boys.

Similarly strong were the winners of the Northern Group – 4 points ahead of the 2nd placed, +41 goal-difference, only 4 lost matches during the season.

Doxa (Drama), established in 1918, was similar to Korinthos – they still had to prove themselves in First Division, where they played previously, but without any success. The champions left misty image of themselves.




Greece – season notes

An interesting Greek season – seemingly, the steady improvement of the country’s football reached a point of relative stagnation. Change of generations was a possible reason – the country’s pool of players was not very big and finding new talent was not easy. Veterans reached their peaks years ago and at least in their original clubs they were not contributing enough. Big and disturbing transfers were the news before the season started. Internal shuffling of players, not new imports. Three players were the big controversy:

Antonis Antoniadis, the legendary striker of Panathinaikos moved to the arch-enemy Olympiakos. The need was obvious – Antoniadis was already 33 years old. In a new club perhaps he was to be useful… but he was Panathinaikos’ legend and fans do not take easily such transfers. Perhaps Antoniadis did not really like playing for Olympiakos; perhaps he was no longer capable of playing for big clubs – he did not really shine in Olympiakos and did not last longer than an year.

The other big transfer involved even bigger star:

Mimis Domazos, on the left of Mavros, moved to AEK. Bigger legend than Antoniadis and captain of Panathinaikos for many years, he went to another big rival. Difficult move for both camps – Panathinaikos’ fans were not happy to see their hero playing for big rivals, but the fans of AEK had their own dilemma: not only Domazos was old, not only he was associated with the enemy camp, but he took the place of their own hero Mimis Papaioannou. Both stars were 36 years old… it was not a promising change, for there was not young and coming player coming… Papaioannou was captaining AEK for ages, he lead them to the title in 1977-78 – and suddenly he became a reserve of thye captain of Panathinaikos.

Losing two legends needed immediate compensation and Panathinaikos was involved with the third big transfer of the season: they got Giorgios (or Jiorgos) Delikaris from Olympiakos. On the surface – the most promising transfer, for Delikaris was at his prime at 27. Adored by Olympiakos’ fans, already a legend in Pireaus… going to the arch-enemy… and didn’t liking the transfer at all. Delikaris never warmed the hearts of Panathinaikos – he was quite open about not liking the transfer. He asked not to play against his former club. He greeted and chatted with Olympiakos’ fans before and after games. He was telling them that he belonged to them.

Delikaris never became a true star of Panathinaikos and even did not last long. An enigmatic person, he suddenly retired from football in 1981 and enveloped himself in silence, staying outside public eye as well.

The second compensation was a German striker, who was playing in Greece since 1974. Walter Wagner was well known name in Greek football, 29 years old at the time. Previously, he played for AEK and in 1977 was transferred to Aris (Thesaloniki). Panathinaikos got him from there, obviously to replace Antoniadis. Looked like a good deal – Wagner and Delikaris were much younger than Antoniadis and Domazos. Panathinaikos was trying to build a new team gradually replacing the old stars with… younger stars, well established, experienced, dependable… but were they really better than the old horses? Wagner joined another foreigner in attack – Oscar Alvarez, who built his reputation entirely in Greece, playing for PAS Giannina. He arrived in Panathinaikos in 1977. Just in case, a third Latin American was added – Benitez Gomez, who never played before in Greece. He did not make waves… played only in 9 games this season, scoring a single goal. Wagner did not live to expectations either – he played 17 matches, scoring three times. Alvarez on the other hand performed well – 15 goals in 33 matches. Delikaris spent the season mostly on the bench… 6 matches and 1 goal… some superstar. Panathinaikos’ scheme misfired. So did Olympiakos’: Antoniadis was a far cry from the menace he used to be – he played in only 13 matches, however his scoring abilities apparently remained intact – 7 goals. The big reshuffling worked only for AEK.

Of course there were many other transfers, but nothing so big, including the new imports, who were largely anonymous players and some of them hardly even played during the season. Like Antonio Gomez Benitez who signed with Panathinaikos. Apparently, he came from Colombia… well, at least he played there in 1975 for Deportivo Cucuta. Panathinaikos paid 2 500 000 drachmas a 26-years old striker, who appeared in 9 matches and scored 1 goal. Nobody even learned his nationality… in Greece, he was – and is – considered Argentine, Uruguayan, and Brazilian. He did not last in Athens, moving to Rodos for the next season, which was his last in Greece. He was the only mysterious flop: Panionios signed two Peruvian, whose names were misspelled – Nuniez and Ohieda. No reason to get the names right… Carlos Felipe Nunez played 13 matches and scored a single goal. Santiago Ojeda registered 14 appearances, also scoring once. The only club which managed to get good performance from previously unknown players was PAS Giannina – the club recruited a whole bunch of South Americans a few years back, played them by hook or crook – some under new Greek names, some because of real or faked Greek roots, some as foreigners – and they not only helped the small club to stay in First Division, but established themselves firmly, becoming valuable commodity – the key striker of Panathinaikos, Oscar Alvarez, was one of the first crop. PAS Giannina continued to dig their gold mine – they introduced two newcomers in 1978: called Correa and Ruiz. Added to their existing 4 Latinos, the club again a total of 6 foreigners… and played them all under rules permitting only 2 foreign players on the pitch.

It was not just foreign players, but also foreign coaches. An old practice… 13 out of 18 first league clubs had foreign coaches in 1978-79. English, Italian, Yugoslav, Polish, Bulgarian… some famous, like Kazimierz Gorski (Panathinaikos), Frantisek Fadrhonc (Panachaiki), Ferenc Puskas (AEK), some not so. AEK (Athens) did not employ a Greek coach since 1965. To a point, foreigners helped Greek football, but it also hit and miss approach – Gorski, for instance, did not achieve anything with Panathinaikos. Was it just bad luck – he coached the team during frustrating time of generational change – or was it his own mistakes – the club seemingly did not recruit really strong players during his spell – is hard to say. Foreigners were expected to win and the quick tempered Greek hardly waited longer than a season. Ferenc Puskas did not last even a season – and AEK were leading! To a point, the Greek football was slowly improving for the most of the 1970s, but reached a point of stagnation in 1978 – largely because the pool of local talent was small. Reshuffling of established players was more a necessity than a whim. The real improvement affected the national team more than the clubs – about 20-25 strong players existed, enough for the national team, but not for the whole of Greek football. And may be the national team prevented a major slump back into obscurity – the stagnation did not last long .

Poland Championship and Cup

Fairly equal league or typically Polish championship – the intrigue of the unknown to the end. No visibly dominant team, no hopeless outsiders. Anything possible. The champions of 1977-78 were not a factor at all.

Wisla (Krakow) dropped so low, they actually fought to avoid relegation. 13th this year, ahead of only 3 clubs… and it was quite strange, because it was not only the same squad which won the championship the year before, but they were perhaps the strongest Polish squad, judging by the names of the players.

But they survived.

Gwardia (Warszawa) finished last with 19 points. The clubs was unable to re-establish itself in the top league and down they went.

Pogon (Szczecin) were 15th, also going down.

Another of the recent champions also had miserable season – Slask (Wroclaw) ended 10th. LKS (Lodz) were 11th – they also knew better days no long ago. Legia (Warszawa) was pretty much the same – the 1970s were not successful years for the club, but the club did not suffer from the absence of Deyna. They were 6th – more or less, their usual position in those years. Odra (Opole) and Szombierki (Bytom) climbed up – 5th and 4th – but, just like with the clubs who sunk, it was not sure was it a reshuffling with some permanence or just momentary good or bad season.

Szombierki (Bytom), a mid-table club at best, were a surprise, considered temporary – they had very modest squad. But they had a much bigger surprise hidden in their sleeves. Strange days for Polish football – Wisla, with their at least 7 national team players, near relegation zone and anonymous Szombierki up and going to make a real sensation soon.

The best three were also a mix – two of the best Polish clubs of the decade and a newcomer, known as a modest club so far.

Stal (Mielec) were still among the best – they finished with bronze medals. Lato, Szarmach, and the national team goalkeeper Kukla were seemingly enough to keep Stal at the top. To a point, it was even unusual – five years back, when Stal suddenly became a force, they had promising squad. Yet, they did not added a few more strong players, but it was rather the opposite. Typically, such a team should have been going down… but in Polish football 3 classy players were capable of keeping a team among the best. Stal were still a force – as long as Lato and Szarmach stayed, which was unlikely. Stal were contenders this season, but eventually dropped to third place, 3 points behind the champions.

The championship was decided by goal-difference, a tight race, exciting because of that, and also strange. Widzew (Lodz), a club similar to Odra and Szombierki so far, suddenly run for the title. Another Sinderella story… but with a difference: Odra and Szombierki had no great players and no up and coming youngsters. Widzew had Zbigniew Boniek. And a few other still unknown, but talented boys. If there was a club with potential to become a major force, it was them. They were elbowing their way up, claiming a place for themselves. Widzew were not very strong in attack, but had the best defensive record this season. They lost the least matches too – only 5. They lost the title on worse goal-difference, perhaps a sign that they were not ready yet, but clearly it was the team going to win soon. The team of the future and the positive change.

Experience won the title. Like Stal, Ruch (Chorzow) were one of the leading clubs of the 1970s. The question facing them was aging – were they able to rebuild quickly enough to maintain their strong position. Compared to their winning team of three-four years ago, change of generation was not successful… no great new player emerged and the old stars were gone abroad or into retirement. Yet, tradition, winning spirit, may be the way the club was run kept them atop. The nature of the Polish league helped that too – small things made the difference in the equal league. Wisla and Slask out of the way this year, Legia not a factor for a long time, Stal having a short team, Widzew still immature… and here it was Ruch, not overwhelming, but not giving up either. May be a bit lucky, but champions.

It was not a great squad, it was not promising either. It was not even a team able to keep good players – the young and very promising goalkeeper Henryk Bolesta, who easily edged Piotr Czaja, the last star of the earlier squad of champions, soon left Ruch and joined Widzew. This vintage was perhaps solid, but certainly not starry. However, it was enough for the moment.

The championship was not flashy, but it was dramatic – fans love close pursuits to the very end. But drama itself is not enough… Polish football was not in great shape at the end of the 1970s. None of the best teams of the championship reached the Cup final – the finalists were still a strange mix, though. Wisla (Krakow) reached the final – seemingly normal for such strong squad. Perhaps they just had a bad year, but class was class, and they were determined to save face by winning the other trophy. Considering their opponents, it should have been a child’s game… Arka (Gdynia) were one of the run-of-the-mill clubs, normally associated with the relegation zone. Nothing special this season year – they finished 11th in the championship, a bit above Wisla, but it was not because they had strong season – it was largely because Wisla had a very weak one. The final should have restored the obvious: easy victory for Wisla, spurred by wounded pride and the much stronger team anyway.

It was not to be – Arka won 2-1. Another Sinderella story.

The club with difficult full name – Morski Związkowy Klub Sportowy Arka Gdynia – hails from the ship-building city on the Baltic sea coast. Not an young club, it was founded in 1929, but had modest existence. Their best ever league achievement was 7th place in 1977-78 – it is still the their best today. The Cup was their first trophy – and so far, their only trophy. One can imagine the joy of the underdog.

Well, this must be the best ever squad of Arka… since they won the only trophy in the club’s history. Local heroes, but they had two well known names: Adam Musial, a regular in the exciting 1974 World Cup Polish squad, and the member of the 1978 World Cup squad Janusz Kupcewicz. Hardly the making of a great team, but two stars were quite enough to make a difference in Polish football. The success may have been also dangerous for a modest club: very likely they attracted the interest of financially better clubs and players were lured elsewhere. The gray Baltic sea and industrial town were hardly attractive even when winning the Cup. Musial and Kupcewicz eventually left – Musial, who came from… Wisla (Krakow) in 1978, joined Hereford United (England) in 1980; Kupcewicz moved to Lech (Poznan) in 1982. Unfortunately, the destiny of Arka was to remain a modest club.

Poland II Division

Poland had competitive, yet, strange season. Something like mild decline was noticeable – Polish clubs were never very strong, but now they seemed a bit weaker than usual. Change of generations may have been the reason – the old heroes stepping down, or rather going abroad, and the new ones not yet fully blooming. Since they were dispersed in many clubs, the absence of one or two key players often spelled out disaster. But in the same time there was international recognition of the quality of the Polish players, thanks to the great generation of 1972-74. And the biggest recognition came with the transfer of Kazimierz Deyna – Manchester City took him and he became one of the first wave of foreigners going to try their luck in England. Perhaps the biggest transfer of Polish player in history – so far, Polish stars went largely to smaller French and Belgian clubs. Now a 31-years old and no longer a national team player went to mighty England. Not bad? Depends… struggling with injuries, Deyna never really shined and played rarely, but still Manchester City kept him for three years. On the other hand, he was one of the many Polish stars who may have been more needed at home… hard to tell. Season proceeded anyway.

Deep down in lower levels it was business as usual – various clubs were either down on their luck or not.

Huthik (Krakow), for instance, won promotion to yet again reorganized Second Division. They were one of somewhat known clubs, who plummeted to the bottom at one point and eventually were pulling themselves up – a frequent change of fate.

The Second Division, divided somewhat geographically into 2 groups, was also divided by performance. The Eastern group had a club with great past now a hopeless outsider – Polonia (Warszawa) ended last, with 5 points less than the nearest and also relegated opponent. Third division was was their immediate future. The other big name in the league had entirely different destiny.

Gornik (Zabrze) were relegated the previous year, and the bad luck obviously spurred them to action. Not a club to really sink into sedimentary existence, they were determined to return to top flight. Gornik had no rivals this season, leaving the second placed Star (Starachowice) 13 points behind.

The Western group was another story. Some better known clubs were among the relegated – Warta (Poznan) and Zaglebie (Lubin) – but more important was the tight race for the first, promotional, place. Four clubs participated in that, none famous or really strong, but the battle was fierce nonetheless. Goal-difference decided the championship – Baltyk (Gdynia) had the tough luck, they were +11, but the opposition ended with +16.

Zawisza (Bydgoszcz) won promotion, thus climbing again to first division, where they played now and then without any success. May be this time? Unlikely, but at least they won a dramatic season.

The lower divisions may have been fun, but nothing like top flight.



Sweden – modest as ever. It was a season of great international triumph and also an end of an era for Malmo FF. It was also an year confirming the rise of a famous coach – still unknown, but already showing his talents away from home. The rest was perhaps typical.

Mjallby AIF confidently won the South Second Division with a lead of 5 points.

Similar were the winners of the Northern Second Division – they won by 4 points, but had the best record in both second level leagues.

IK Brage finished with 43 points – Mjallby AIF had 38 – and won 20 of their 26 seasonal games.

Both winners had played in the top league before, but modestly and no one expected big surprises from them. The newly promoted mostly hoped to stay among the best.

The fairly equal Swedish football changed the fate of clubs on yearly basis – depending on who they had at particular moment. An old and generally successful club going down would be a big and may be upsetting news elsewhere, but not in Sweden.

AIK had a weak season and although they tried to escape, they failed and finished next to last. The fatal 13th place was theirs at the end, a point short of safety.

The dead last – and the real outsiders this year – was a club interesting as novelty.

IS Halmia were not really competing, so weak they were. 2 wins and 5 ties left them not only last, but last by far – AIK finished with 11 points more. Perhaps the poor losers should be left in peace, but still it was curious moment – they were the second club representing the city of Halmstad in the top division. Halmia was last and their city rivals… first.

More or less, five clubs tried to win the title – the group was somewhat reduced to two at the end. Perhaps giving too much attention to the European Champions Cup and suffering fatigue, but Malmo FF dropped from the race for the title and finished unusually low – at 4th place.

In Europe, Malmo FF had fantastic year, yet, so-so one at home. There were changes in the familiar squad – some may have said ‘changes at last’ – noticeably, the emergence of new star, Robert Prytz. The other interesting news was the very rare for the time appearance of Brazilian player in Sweden: some guy called… well, his name was and is often misspelled. Edson Rodrigues Monteiro. The confusion with his name is understandable – he was not only unknown player, but also failed to make impression and did not play much. He was not a starter at all. Either not good or adaptation to cold and snowy Sweden was difficult for him. The last news sad one: the maker of the excellent Malmo FF, who coached them steadily during the whole 1970s left this year – Bob Houghton went back to England to manage Bristol City. He had long and wonderful spell with Malmo FF, he led them to European final. Perhaps it was natural to look for new opportunity… yet, going to Bristol was hardly a recognition of great talent. It was an end of an era – for almost ten years Houghton and Malmo FF were one and the same.

IF Elfsborg (Boras) edged Malmo FF and finished 3rd.

An excellent season for Eleganterna (The Elegants), who hardly had anything good since 1961.

Second place for IFK Goteborg. They had the best goal-difference in the league and the second-best strikers (mid-table Hammarby IF were the top scorers), but a single point decided gold and silver.

IFK Goteborg was in the shadow of Malmo FF during the 1970s, but this year perhaps marked the beginning of the successful 1980s team. Young Dan Corneliusson was only a promising player and the name of also young coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was noticed only in Sweden. Yet.

The battle for the title was won by another young and not famous yet coach at the helm of the 1977 champions, Halmstads BK. Roy Hodgson was hired by the club in 1976 after recommendation from Houghton and already made the previously modest club champions twice in three years.

Third row, from left: Rutger Backe, Olle Sjödahl, Hans Selander, Lennart Ljung, Alf Peterson, Bo Mattsson.

Middle row: Stig Nilsson, Bertil Andersson, Stefan Larsson, Anders Westergren, Roland Johansson, Roy Hodgson – coach.

First row: Bengt Sjöholm, Peder Amberntsson, Claes Karlsson, Mats Jingblad, Sigge Johansson.

No famous players here and may be a bit conservative team – 12 wins, 12 ties, and 2 losses – but points count for everything and Halmstads BK had one more than IFK Goteborg. Champions for a second time and proving that young English coaches delivered in Sweden. But, following Houghton’s steps again, Hodgson left after winning the title. In 1980 he went to Bristol City as assistant of his friend Bob Houghton. As for the city of Halmstad, a strange years ended – pathetic Halmia was last, but Halmstads BK were champions.

Perhaps it was difficult to compete with the two Englishmen, but Sven-Goran Eriksson was determined to overcome them. IFK Goteborg reached the Cup final.

Atvidabergs FF were the other finalists. By 1979 the sensations of the early 1970s were already forgotten. They barely maintained a place in First Division, finishing 11th. The Cup final was more or less their last gasp before plunging into oblivion. As opposition, they were nothing… IFK Goteborg thrashed them 6-1!

Happy Cup winners and clearly a rising team. The world was yet to hear about them – and about their coach. In an ironic twist, Sweden depended on English coaches during the 1970s, but years later it was England hiring Sven-Goran Eriksson a national team manager.

Denmark Championship and Cup

First division had its own intrigue – second season of professional football. Perhaps it was not that much a period of adaptation, but a period of sifting out – which clubs were able to find enough money for the new reality. Especially money for long-term stability in a country with no big clubs and small pool of supporters. Copenhagen had too many clubs for professional era, smaller towns with more than one club had perhaps bigger problem. May be that was the reason for rather divided league this season – the outsiders were clear, so were two separate groups of mid-table teams. Looked like a 16-team league was too big for professional football.

Slagelse BI finished last with 16 points.

IK Skovbakken ended 15th with 19 points. The curious ‘personal’ adds on the team’s shirts continued – 9 different firms placed adds, but 4 players apparently nobody wanted… and they were with plain shirts. An illustration of the difficulties Danish clubs were facing – how to run professional club without cash. The previous year all players had adds at least… seemingly, things were not going better and so the fate of the club.

B 1901 was the third club in dire straits – 20 points and out of the league. One of the clubs not able to survive in the new reality, as it turned out. For the moment, only relegated…

Seven so-so clubs were much stronger than the relegated, but nothing more otherwise. Among them was Vejle – one of the strongest Danish clubs a few years back, when football was still amateur. BK Frem topped this group with 30 points, ending at 7th place with 10 wins, 10 ties, and 10 losses. Five other clubs soared high above the bulk of the league – Naestved, the lowest of them, was 6th with 6 points more than BK Frem. None of them contested the title, though. The championship was comfortably won by Esbjerg fB.

A great year for the champions – they finished 6 points ahead of the closest pursuer, naturally with the best scoring and defensive records in the league. They lost only 2 matches and won 18. And it was their 5th title, a nice round number. They had to wait almost 15 years for this one, though – their last title was won in 1965. The long wait perhaps made victory even sweeter.

The new champions of Denmark – perhaps a positive sign that professionalism worked for those quick to adapt: suddenly, new heroes. May be so, may be not – after all, the champions still had the typical Danish squad: mostly anonymous, one or two rising stars. Esbjerg depended on their goalkeeper Ole Kjaer, 25 years old and Danish player of the year in 1978. He also became national team regular after Piontek dismissed Birger Jensen. The other star was the 26-year old Jens Jørn Haahr Bertelsen, voted the player of the year in 1979. The defensive midfielder eventually became much better knwon than Kjaer – but only after 1980, when Piontek’s ‘Danish dynamite’ exploded and the player moved to Italy. Two stars… well, may be three, if Ole Madsen is added – more than enough for winning the Danish championship. And not surprising at all – good players were still dispersed in many clubs of first and second division, there was no consolidation. No trully dominant clubs and hardly a chance for ‘doubles’ – Esbjerg were supreme in the league, but the Cup was entirely out of their reach. And, as a passing note, they should have celebrated harder perhaps: this was the last championship the club won. Of only they knew it…

The Cup final opposed Koge BK to B 1903.

To a point, and excellent season for Koge – winning promotion to first division and also reaching the Cup final: not bad for a second division club? Koge rising again? Evidently.

Of course, they came out on the filed determined to win. And came close… in front of 9800 fans, they scored the only goal of the final. Unfortunately, Peter Poulsen put the ball in the wrong net… Koge lost 0-1.

May be lucky winners, but still winners – the Cup stayed in Copenhagen, firmly in he hands of B 1903. Looked like the club was adapting well to professionalism – they had good league season, finishing with bronze medals. They won the Cup. It was important for survival, especially in the capital city with its many clubs, all competing for money. Winners have best chances?

Helped by Koge’s player, happy Cup winners. Sponsored by Codan, perhaps the most important sponsor in Denmark – trophies ensured future sponsorship as well. Yet, the squad was not all that great… trophies, attracting sponsors, were the key… get the cash, get the money, win again, get more cash, get more players… simple, right? There is no B 1903 today…

Denmark II Division

The second professional season of Danish football. No visible results yet, if not counting the measures taken by the national team coach Sepp Piontek – he introduced discipline, something disliked by the Danish players. Strange for a Northern nation, but the Danes disliked authority and generally disregarded it. So far, Piontek’s requirements produced one result: the best Danish goalkeeper, Birger Jensen (FC Brugge, Belgium) was out of the national team and never called again. A risky move, but in the long run, a healthy one. With or without Jensen, Denmark was still among the European outsiders. So were the clubs.

The Second Division ended with three more or less familiar winners:

Standing, from left: Kresten Bjerre – coach, Claus Larsen, Søren Grenå Larsen, Ole Christiansen, John Tune Kristiansen, Peter Rasmussen, Kim Truesen, Michael Haagensen.

Crouching: John Jensen, Torben Bastholm, Peter Poulsen, Jan Olesen, Frank Olsen, Arne Rastad.

Koge BK, a really wild club – unpredictable up and downs. Champions just a couple of years back, then relegated, now going up again and quite impressively too.

Lyngby BK were also frequent members of first division. Rather modest, but more likely to play in top flight than in second division.

Lyngby also had at least one player who became well known in Europe – Klaus Berggreen. 21-years old promise, just called to the national team.

Fremad Amager, one of the many – at the time – Copenhagen’s clubs. Founded in 1910, but with modest history. Playing sometimes in first division was just about the best they ever achieved.

The boys were unknown. So were their aims.