Greek Super League

Super League; is the name given to Greece's top professional championship in 2006, when the organizing body of the competition rebranded the country's prime football “product”. It is the successor of the “Alpha Ethniki” (A National) which started in 1959, even though football in the country has been played since the late 19th century, and some sort of national competition has been organized since 1927.

History

Aris Thessaloniki are considered the first champions, in 1928, in times when – officially recognized – football matches were played exclusively in Athens/Piraeus (the latter is that port sibling of Greece's capital city, there is no natural or other boundary between the two) and Thessaloniki.

The first really nation-wide and open to teams from any part of the country championship was organized in 1959-1960, under the new back then name of “Alpha Ethniki”. Panathinaikos were the first winners, going on to dominate the whole of the 60s, unlike the 50s that were mostly an Olympiacos affair.

Greece was ruled by a military regime from 1967 to 1974, period during which the champion of Cyprus spent next season playing in Greece's top category. Democracy was restored in the country in the mid 70s, and the practice of “hosting” the best team of brother-state Cyprus was discontinued.

Football in Greece became professional in 1979, with all Alpha Ethniki clubs turning into SAs (Société Anonyme in French), “Ανώνυμες Εταιρείες”, (Greek for “anonymous companies”).

The 1987-88 season was a historic one for the Greek league, since AEL, Athlitiki Enosi Larissas (Athletic Union of Larissa, a city in central Greece), became the first (and only, at least until 2017) non Athens/Piraeus or Thessaloniki club to win the title. Including Aris, who won the championship three times before the establishment of the Alpha Ethniki in 1959, only six clubs have won the title, with Olympiacos Piraeus proud to boast more trophies than Panathinaikos, AEK (both from Athens), and PAOK (from Thessaloniki).

In the early 90s, AEK managed to win three consecutive titles for the first time in their history, playing some really impressive football. Soon after that, Olympiacos started building their empire, having the strongest team on the field, the wealthiest businessman/owner financing them (Sokratis Kokkalis), and an undeniable streak of key referee decisions going their way as well.

In 2004, soon after Panathinaikos won a rare (after 1996) championship title, the national team of Greece shocked the football world by becoming European champions in Portugal, beating the host nation twice, including in the final. The unexpected and historic success was seen by many in the country as a fantastic opportunity to draw a line and make a fresh start, doing everything necessary to “clean” the national championship/football scene up, giving all teams a fair chance.

Soon, it was made obvious that the domestic football status quo could not change, and Olympiacos went back to dominating for years, winning the championship practically without competition, using huge sums of money earned by the team's participation in the UEFA Champions League groups to further strengthen the squad, and grow the gap between them and everyone else.

League system

Greek Super League is since 2006 the top tier of the Greece football league system. The second nationwide division is since 2010 known as Football League (former Beta Ethniki). An overview of the current league system in Greece is presented in the table below.

Table 1. Greece football tiers
Club Tier
Greek Super League 1
Football League 2
Gamma Ethniki 3

Below the third level several local amateurs leagues are as well included in the league system.

Stats

Teams with most titles

Statistics of all Greek clubs that have won the top league more than once, concerning the period 1927-2017.

Table 2. Clubs and Super League titles
Club Titles
Olympiacos 44
Panathinaikos 20
AEK 12
Aris 3
PAOK 2
AEL 1

Also, if league titles are counted since 1959 when Alpha Ethniki started, Olympiacos is the leading club.

Audience

Capacity of Ekstraklasa stadiums

The table shows the capacity of all Ekstraklasa club stadiums (based on the teams that participated in the league season 2017–2018). Lechia Gdańsk's Stadion Energa Gdańsk is the biggest in the league with capacity over 40,000 people. However, the biggest stadium in Poland is National Stadium, which was constructe to stand ready for Euro 2012 and has since been used for national football matches and other events.

Table 3. The stadium capacities in the Greek Super League season 2017-2018
Team Stadium name Capacity
AEK Olympic Stadium 69,618
AEL AEL FC Arena 16,118
Apollon Smyrnis Georgios Kamaras Stadium 14,856
Aris Kleanthis Vikelides Stadium 22,800
Asteras Tripolis Asteras Tripolis Stadium 7,717
Atromitos Peristeri Stadium 10,200
Olympiacos Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium 32,115
Panathinaikos Olympic Stadium 69,618
Panetolikos Panetolikos Stadium 7,370
Panionios Nea Smyrni Stadium 12,000
PAOK Toumba Stadium
29,000
PAS Giannina Zosimades Stadium 7,534
Xanthi Xanthi FC Arena 7,422

Players

Records

Since 1959, which is considered the birth year of the Super League (including its direct predecessor, the Alpha Ethniki), only three teams have managed to not miss a single season in the top category; Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and PAOK.

Dimitris (usually called “Mimis”) Domazos, a legendary Greek midfielder, holds the record of most games played, more than 530, mostly for Panathinaikos, and a small part for AEK. Thomas Mavros, an AEK icon, but also big in Panionios' history (a smaller club that have produced several important players but have never won the championship title), is the league's all-time leading scorer, having found the back of the net a record 260 times. Another Panathinaikos legend, Polish striker Krzysztof Warzycha, has played more games (390) and scored more goals (245) than any other foreigner in the Greek league, making nothing but friends with his skill, professionalism and overall attitude, on and off the field.

The games between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos are the biggest of the season, as they involve the most successful clubs, and also the ones that are followed by the largest fan bases. Panathinaikos vs AEK are the biggest Athens derbies. PAOK vs Aris in Thessaloniki are also big, but with the latter absent from the top category for several seasons since the mid 90s, the rivalry has somewhat subsided. Last, but not least, Olympiacos vs PAOK are by far the biggest games involving a team from Piraeus/Athens and Thessaloniki, the two biggest metropolitan areas in Greece.

References:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superleague_Greece
https://el.wikipedia.org/wiki/Πρωτάθλημα_Ελλάδας_ποδοσφαίρου_ανδρών
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimis_Domazos
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Mavros
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krzysztof_Warzycha
http://www.superleaguegreece.net/en