Fifteen points clear at the top of the Greek Superleague, the table makes good reading for Olympiacos fans going into Sunday evening’s game away to Panionios. A win would see them go 18 points clear.
The Piraeus based team manage to rack up another victory, albeit after a slow start. Ten minutes into the second half, incisive passing play leads to the ever-reliable Alejandro Dominguez tapping in for his third goal of the season.
The away side get one back thanks to Spyros Rivanis heading home, but normal service is resumed when Felipe Pardo, a player recently called up for Columbia, scrambles in Olympiacos second. Brown Ideye seals the deal with the away sides third.
The league leaders now go into their home tie against Levadiakos next weekend with an opportunity to break a club record by getting their 17th league win in a row.
Thrylos, the legend as their fans call them, have lived up to that nickname by winning the last six Superleague titles and even more impressively finishing top of the pile 17 times in the past 19 league seasons.
During that time, there have been four different winners of La Liga, six different winners of the Bundesliga and eight different winners of Ligue Un. Why do Olympiacos have such a hold on Greek football?
One of the main reasons is money, not just the abundance of it that the Olympiacos has, but also the lack of it in their competitors. OFI Crete and Niki Volos were forced to out of the Superleague last season after failure to pay players, this lead to four teams getting relegated instead of the usual two.
The 2015-16 Greek league campaign season started with just sixteen teams instead of the standard eighteen, the Hellenic Football federation decided to cut down on clubs participating with some looking financially frail. The Greek debt crisis has had a major impact on attendances in the Superleague.
For example, Panionios, Olympiacos’ latest opposition, had on average an attendance of nearly 1500 last season, they finished fifth. In 2007/08, before the debt crises, over 3100 fans were turning up every week. That season the Nea Smyrni side also ended up fifth.
Like in the Premier League, the Superleague broadcasting money is distributed to teams according to their finishing position. The second to fifth placed teams go into a play-off which determines who will join the league winners in the Champions League and who will enter the Europa League.
UEFA’s money dwarfs anything that the Superleague offers, so getting into the top five gives teams a huge financial advantage over their opponents.
Olympiacos have acquired top spot money and Champions League funds five times in a row; they netted a cool €12 million from entering the group stage in this season’s instalment of Europe’s elite club competition. From reaching the quarter finals two years ago, Olympiacos received nearly 27.5 million Euros’ from participation, performance and market pool money.
The numbers add up, but it must also be remembered that the league’s top dogs are by far the best supported and most popular team in Greece. Olympiacos’ are based in Piraeus, a municipality located just seven miles from the Athens city centre.
Obviously being Greece’s most successful football team had led to plenty of support outside the area. Last summer I went on holiday to Santorini, a small island south-east of mainland Greece. During my time there, it seemed every local was an Olympiacos fan, I very kindly received a discount on nearly every beverage while wearing an old Olympiacos away shirt. A convenience store close to my hotel sold two different papers dedicated to the club.
As previously mentioned, the Champions League is the aspiration for all Superleague clubs because of the financial rewards. Not since Panathinaikos in 2010 has a Greek team other than Olympiacos got to the group stage.
In 2008-09, Panathinaikos managed to get all the way to the last 16 of the Champions League, topping the group stage in the process. During the summer of 2009 the club saw a chance to knock Olympiacos off their perch, spending big in the transfer window, bringing in €35 million worth of players. Djibril Cisse, Kostas Katsouranis and Sebestian Leto all came in with big wages.
Initially the spending seemed to work, Panathinaikos managed to win the Superleague and the Greek cup in 2010. Long term however, it became apparent that they had bitten off more than they could chew. Djibril Cisse, among other players, was sold at a loss.
The French forward was earning an alleged €2.5 million every year during his time with the Greek greens. Problems spiralled from there and the board resigned in 2012 due to financial troubles. Luckily the club was saved as it became fan owned; the Panathinaikos Alliance was set up, but Panathinaikos have failed to reach heights of 2010 ever since and are still paying off debts.
It’s apparent that Olympiacos have predominantly always had the best of the Greek Superleague’s players; Yaya Toure, Rivaldo and Olof Mellberg have all turned out in the famous red and white in the last ten years, but some opposition fans believe that some of Thrylos recent success has been because of actions off the pitch, specifically by owner Evangelos Marinakis.
Marinakis was accused in 2015 by the National Intelligence Service of Greece of being the man behind match a criminal organization controlling the Greek game. After being involved in the Koriopolis match fixing scandal in which the judicial authorities outlined over 40 fixed matches, Marinakis became owner of Olympiacos in 2010.
Corruption involving the multi millionaire has continued to follow him, and Marinakis was banned from football in June 2015 after the National Intelligence Service of Greece accused him of five separate serious crimes.
Olympiacos subsequently lost the game and a bakery owned by Konstantineas was by burned down by arsonists several weeks later.
Personally, I don’t think Thrylos success depends on this man, though may have contributed toward it. I feel if he left tomorrow, Olympiacos would still easily win the league and find a new buyer, the problems lie in the repercussions Marinakis actions might have on the club, namely a banning from UEFA competitions.
This season the reigning Superleague champions have been irresistible, the fact that every player in the team is a cut above the rest of the league reminds me of Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.
Whether or not the record is broken, Olympiacos’ domination of the Greek Superleague will continue for seasons to come.