The Syntrivani Ground
In March 1929, PAOK absorbed AEK Thessaloniki. The latter were using the Syntrivani premises as training ground for their athletics sections. Construction works were quite challenging in order to turn the ground into a football field and –above all- to come up with an underground escape route for the Evangelistria water stream.
The first football ground of PAOK was inaugurated on 5 June 1932 before the league encounter against Iraklis. Thousands of Thessaloniki citizens attended the event, proud to see the club get their own “home”. Syntrivani Ground hosted PAOK for 27 years. Based there, the “Double-Headed Eagle” claimed the Northern Greece Championship in 1939-‘40 and also won seven Thessaloniki league titles (1937, 1948, 1950, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957).
On that day, PAOK draw Iraklis 3-3, Papaiordanidis netting a hat-trick for the “Double-Headed Eagle”. Gate income of that match was 23.000 drs! PAOK fielded the following line-up in their first encounter on Syntrivani Ground: Chalkias, Pylorov, Papadopoulos, Panidis, Pangalos, Athanasiadis, Papaiordanidis, Konstantinidis, Kampouroglou, Lazarou, Kavourmatzis.
The last official match at Syntrivani Ground was held on 31 May 1959. The land was purchased by Aristotelio University. Nowadays the Theological School stands where the football stadium used to be.
The third consecutive Thessaloniki league
Nikos Pangalos started building the big PAOK squad of the ‘50s, he then passed the torch to Willy Sefzik and Erman Hoffman took over in the summer of 1955. The “Double-Headed Eagle” dominated the scene and won their third consecutive Thessaloniki league, therefore earning permanently the Cup awarded by the municipality.
On that occasion, they celebrated in style completing the season undefeated and conceding just one draw (2-2 away at Iraklis). They kicked off on 2 October 1955 with a spectacular 9-0 victory over PO Xirokrini who were using the home ground of Aris. Speaking of Aris, PAOK prevailed in both encounters against the Yellows, 4-1 at home and 1-0 away. Kouiroukidis topped scoring charts with 14 goals to his name, Chourbouliadis finishing a distant second with 4 goals.
On 4 July 1956, PAOK celebrated their title with a 5-1 thrashing of Iraklis. The visitors took the lead with a direct free kick by Chatzigiannidis, but the “Double-Headed Eagle” ran riot afterwards with goals by Papadakis, Chavanidis, Giannelos (2) and Kouiroukidis.
Meanwhile, during the second round of the Thessaloniki League, PAOK were also negotiating their matches for the extremely competitive Greek league. They remained at the top until the last stretch of the competition, eventually won by Olympiacos by one point.
The Toumba temple
Toumba Stadium opened its gates for the first time on 6 September 1959 to welcome PAOK and their supporters. It was inaugurated with a friendly 1-0 victory over AEK. The change was first prompted by the purchase of the Syntrivani land by Aristotelio University in order to build the Theological School. PAOK administration went on to acquire a 7,5-acre area at Ano Toumba belonging to the Ministry of National Defence.
The purchase cost was set at 1,5 million drachmas and was paid by PAOK’s administration in 20 six-month instalments of 75.000 drachmas each. On 7 February 1958, a committee of Third Army Corps officers delivered the land to “Double-Headed Eagle’s” representatives S.Georgiadis and V.Sidiropoulos.
Earthworks started in spring 1958 and then construction work followed, based on the plans of architect Minas Trempelas and political engineer Antonis Triglianos. In an attempt to collect the necessary funds, the club issued the “Lottery for the construction of PAOK’s new stadium” in April 1958 at a cost of 20 drachmas each. Since 1956, the administration had been channeling 15% of the gate income to fund the construction of the new stadium.
Ahead of their encounter against Ethnikos Piraeus at Leoforos Alexandras Stadium on 21 December 1963, PAOK were plagued by absences. Therefore Hungarian coach György Babolchay had to call four players from the youth squad. Among them was the -unknown back then- Giorgos Koudas, barely 17 years old. He proved an instant hit, as according to match reports, he was among his team’s finest.
“PAOK’s Nikolaidis was the best player on the pitch, conducting his young teammates comfortably and wisely. Leandros assisted him, goalkeeper Mouselemidis put on a fine display, as did young right interior Koudas”.
PAOK lost 1-0, but that day became significant as the arguably best player in the history of the club made his debut in the top-flight league. He then appeared in 14 out of the 19 remaining league encounters of PAOK in 1963-‘64.
He put on the black-and-white jersey for the last time on 26 February 1984, twenty years after his debut. During that period he featured in 504 league encounters –still a PAOK record for most appearances-, conjuring up 133 goals.
PAOK’s first ever encounter in European competition corresponded to the Inter-Cities Fairs’ Cup and was held on 15 September 1965. It was a cause for celebration for the city of Thessaloniki. The match was held at Kaftanzoglio Stadium and not at Toumba, due to lack of floodlights. Before kick-off, there was a parade by the orchestra of Thessaloniki Municipality. Afterwards, the mayor Mr. Tsiros presented the winners with a trophy, while the delegation of Wiener Sportklub were taken on tour around the city.
The 15.000 spectators paid 30 drs for a match ticket. The Austrian side took the lead through Hoff in minute 52, but PAOK turned the match around and won 2-1. Koudas scored the equalizer in the 62nd minute on an assist by Mitrakas and Mouratidis netted the winner 15 minutes from time.
PAOK relied on the brilliance of the Leandros-Koudas-Apostolidis triplet that caused all sorts of defensive headaches to their rivals and earned the club their first ever win in European competition. Seeing victory escape them, the visitors became increasingly nervous and their tackles on Mitrakas and Koudas increasingly stronger.
In the Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finals
PAOK’s campaign in the Cup Winners’ Cup of 1973-‘74 remains to this day their finest run in European competition. They first eliminated Legia Warszawa and then saw off Olympique Lyonnais, before coming up against defending cup holders AC Milan in the quarter-finals.
PAOK lost 3-0 at San Siro on 13 March 1974, but their potential and performance in Italy invited hope that the tie could turn around in Thessaloniki. The “Double-Headed Eagle” also took heart from their previous qualifications, especially the spectacular one over Olympique Lyonnais and the 4-0 thrashing at Toumba.
The way they lost in Italy and especially the decisions of Maltese referee Paul Bonnet motivated players and fans of PAOK. Toumba Stadium was packed for the second leg, as all tickets were sold out two days before kick-off. The club administration also gave the go-ahead for the live TV broadcast of the match.
On Wednesday 20 March 1974, PAOK stormed out of the blocks and confined Milan in their own half. In the first thirty minutes, they scored one goal through Sarafis’ header (29’), had a shot on post with Paridis (19’) and the Italian side’s keeper had to intervene and push away Terzanidis’ sudden shot in the 7th minute. Giorgos Koudas’ close range shot in the 51st minute almost doubled PAOK’s lead, but the visitors’ defence cleared the ball off the line.
Against the run of play, the “Rossoneri” leveled through a shot by Bigon that caught Chatziioannou off guard. “The equalizer was a huge blow”, Giorgos Koudas said after the match. The aim of a 3-0 win that would force extra time had escaped them. Stavros Sarafis gave PAOK the lead again with another header in the 74th minute, serviced by Terzanidis, but yet another blunder by Chatziioannou allowed Tressoldi to make it 2-2 four minutes later.
FC Barcelona and Johan Cruyff bow before PAOK
In 1975-’76, the UEFA Cup that had replaced the extinct Inter-Cities Fairs’ Cup was already in its third season. That was when PAOK made their debut in the competition. Their first opponent was powerhouse FC Barcelona of Johan Cruyff and 11 internationals.
The 45.200 tickets sold for the encounter against the “Blaugrana” on Tuesday 16 September 1975 are indicative of the fans’ passion and remain the all-time record attendance in a European match at Toumba. Only the league match against AEK Athens in 1976-’77 has attracted more fans at PAOK’s home ground (45.252 spectators).
In the 58th minute, Aslanidis’ direct free kick that landed at the back of the net was disallowed, as the referee had awarded an indirect kick. Quarter of an hour later, Apostolidis crossed towards the area, Aslanidis headed the ball at the path of Koudas, who broke the deadlock. The latter could have scored a second goal in the 80th minute, but his side shot was denied by Mora.
The visitors reacted in the final stretch of the encounter and came up close to a goal of their own. Cruyff’s corner was met by Migueli but the latter’s header went just wide. As for Heredia’s header five minutes from time, it was denied by the crossbar.
FC Barcelona made light work of the second leg, prevailing 6-1 over PAOK. The solitary goal of PAOK was scored by Anastasiadis in the second half, temporarily reducing distances to 5-1.
Lóránt dies on the bench
Gyula Lóránt signed for PAOK on 10 December 1974 and first sat on the bench five days later, for the 2-0 victory over Olympiacos at Toumba. Until the end of that season, he laid the foundations for the team that would go on to claim their first ever league title in 1975-’76.
Urban legend has it that he opted for Thessaloniki because of the weather –the doctors suggesting that Mediterranean climate and lots of sunshine would cure his chronic skin condition. After securing the 1976 title, he didn’t extend his contract. However he gave in to the intense pressure of PAOK FC president Giorgos Pantelakis and returned in early 1980 for a second spell at the club.
When the Hungarian tactician took his troops to Katerini for a mini preparation stage ahead of the Greek Cup semi-finals against AEK Athens, his heart gave some early warning signs. The team secured qualification with two victories (1-0 at Toumba and 2-0 in Chalkida). Before the final, PAOK had to go through a league encounter against Olympiacos, of no significance for the standings.
On 31 May 1981, the tension was palpable at Toumba. Eleven minutes into the match, Giorgos Koudas’ header struck on the outer side of Olympiacos’ net, but those on the bench thought it went in and burst into celebration. Gyula Lóránt lost his senses and fell down, near young player Stathis Triantafyllidis and Vasilis Vasilakos.
Lóránt was taken to AHEPA, where his death was confirmed. It was revealed that he had been suffering from heart problems for the last five years. The players were told of their coach’s passing after the final whistle that saw them win 1-0 through a goal by Vasilakos.
The Munich thriller
The two-legged tie between PAOK and FC Bayern München for the 1983-‘84 UEFA Cup 2nd round had caught the eye of football lovers all over Europe due to a peculiar clash. Pál Csernai had taken the reins of the “Double-Headed Eagle” right after completing a five-year spell at the Bavarians, where his relations with the team’s stars left much to be desired.
There was an ongoing feud, but his successor in Munich Udo Lattek preferred to remain neutral: “I have no problem with him. But that is not the case with some of my players”.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was far from politically correct and opted to add fuel. “We want to prove to Csernai who we really are”, he commented. On the evening of the first leg at Toumba, PAOK fans twice rose from their seats for Christos Dimopoulos’ close calls, but the match ended goalless.
On 2 November, the 25.000 spectators in Bayern’s home ground attended an intense encounter that could go either way. PAOK’s determination and focus made Uli Hoeneß say after the match: “We didn’t face 11 players, but 11 computers”.
After 210 goalless minutes, qualification would be decided in the penalty shoot-out. PAOK wasted the opportunity to wrap up the tie in the 113th minute, when Alexandridis went one-on-one with Pfaff but his shot wasn’t strong enough. The spot kick procedure became even more dramatic, as English referee Alan Robinson decided to steal the show by ordering four penalties to be taken again.
The penalty shoot-out:
Augenthaler 1-1 (Furtula saved twice, but the referee ordered the spot kick to be taken again, the German player netting his third effort)
- Hoeneß, Furtula saved
Damanakis, Pfaff saved
Alavantas 4-5 (he scored in his second effort. His first spot kick went wide, but the referee ordered a second attempt)
Malioufas, Pfaff saved
Maradona at Toumba
In the 1988-’99 UEFA Cup 1st round, PAOK got drawn against SSC Napoli. Dutch coach Rinus Israël told his players that they would come up against three of the world’s best: Diego Maradona, Careca and Alemão.
In Italy’s first leg, Giorgos Skartados and Kostas Lagonidis combined to keep Diego Maradona at bay, the former monitoring him in the edge of the area as well. In both legs however the PAOK faithful stole the show. In “San Paolo” the encounter was decided by a rigorous penalty awarded when Careca was brought down by Mitoglou. Maradona converted the spot kick.
Israël asked his players not to get intimidated by their rivals in the Toumba leg. He reminded them of Maradona’s statement that he would score a brace and stressed the Italians’ excessive optimism, showcased by the fact that they didn’t send scouts to watch PAOK defeat Olympiacos in Athens.
Toumba crowd were treated to some glimpses of Maradona’s talent. He contented himself in a defence-splitting pass that Careca collected and converted to goal in the 17th minute. He also tested Gitsioudis a few times. PAOK equalized in the 64th minute when Skartados headed the ball home from a corner kick (the one of twenty corners awarded to the home side that evening).
Diego Maradona received an ovation by PAOK fans. SSC Napoli had just made the first step on their way to winning the UEFA Cup trophy that season.
The “Highbury” opus
Zisis Vryzas’ goal that earned PAOK a 1-1 draw against Arsenal FC in “Highbury” secured a historic qualification. That goal will never be forgotten by the fans of the “Double-Headed Eagle”, nor by all Greek football lovers.
PAOK had laid the ground a fortnight earlier, on 16 September 1997, when they played host to Arsenal at Toumba Stadium. Angelos Anastasiadis’ troops made it clear to their English counterparts that they would be no easy prey. The “Double-Headed Eagle” won 1-0, Kostas Frantzeskos scoring the solitary goal after 61 minutes.
In the second leg held at “Highbury”, Dennis Bergkamp cancelled out the first-leg’s result in the 22nd minute. In the final stretch of the encounter, Arsenal charged forward for that second goal that would seal their qualification and prevent extra-time. They didn’t get to spend more time on the pitch anyway, but the goal was scored in their own box. Kostas Frantzeskos passed the ball to Vryzas who evaded Arsenal’s defensive duo, found space and unleashed a shot beyond David Seaman’s reach. That 1-1 draw sealed an epic qualification for PAOK over Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal, a team that eventually won the domestic double that season.
Panagiotis Katsouris’ untimely death
One of Greece’s finest talents, Panagiotis Katsouris was 21 years old and had all his life ahead of him. But he met an untimely death on 9 February 1998, when he lost control of his car and crashed against the parapet of the bridge at Thermi.
Panagiotis Katsouris was and remains a member of PAOK’s vast family. Born on 28 October 1976, he joined PAOK from Naoussa in the summer of 1996. He played for Greece’s U21 team and quickly was established at PAOK. He made his debut with the black-and-white jersey on 8 September 1996, in their 3-1 defeat by OFI in the opening league match. Apart from Katsouris, Gunder Bengtsson fielded the following players on that day: Michopoulos, Tasiopoulos, Alexiou, Zafiriou, Pisz, Toursounidis, G.Anastasiadis, Zoumpoulis, Chavos, Kapetanopoulos, Dymkowski, Zagorakis and Vryzas.
His last appearance with the PAOK shirt was on 25 January 1998, at Toumba, again versus OFI. He featured for 12 minutes.
In total he played in 29 encounters of the “Double-Headed Eagle”, all competitions included, and netted three goals.
The fateful night at Tempi
On 3 October 1999, PAOK had held Panathinaikos to a 1-1 draw in Athens Olympic Stadium, thanks to Joe Nagbe’s equalizer in the 78th minute.
PAOK fans travelled back to Thessaloniki, 77 of them boarding the double-decker bus that had collected them outside the offices of PAOK Fan Club of Kordelio. On 4 October, at 4.30 in the morning, two kilometers away from the Tempi tolls, the bus driver tried to overtake a vehicle, veered into the opposite lane and collided head on with a truck.
The bus overturned and fell on a ditch, killing six fans. Charalampos Zapounidis, 20, Dimitrios Andreadakis, 15, Christina Tziova, 18, Anastasios Themelis, 22, Georgios Ganatsios, 22, Kyriakos Lazaridis died on the spot, as did 68-year old Asterios Agziotis, driver of the truck.
All six fans were members of the PAOK Fan Club of Kordelio, a Thessaloniki suburb struck by this unspeakable tragedy. A few minutes after the accident, PAOK FC president Giorgos Batatoudis and vice-president Thanasis Akrivopoulos were informed and it fell upon them to pass the dreadful news to the club community.
Stavros Kalafatis travelled immediately to Larissa to assist the families of the victims and to meet the remaining fans who camped at Tempi. In total 33 PAOK fans were injured and were taken to the General Hospital of Larissa.
Constantinople has fallen!
PAOK returned to the city of their roots in August 2010 for the UEFA Europa League play-offs. After getting eliminated by AFC Ajax on the away goals rule (4-4 aggregate) in the UEFA Europa League, they transferred to the Europa League and were paired against Fenerbahçe SK. They prevailed 1-0 at Thessaloniki thanks to Vieirinha’s goal in the 19th minute. They held on to victory despite playing in numerical inferiority for more than half-an-hour, after Vitolo was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
On 26 August, at “Şükrü Saracoğlu” Stadium, Emre fired Fener in the lead, leveling the tie. Zlatan Muslimović remained on the bench until minute 83, when he came on the pitch to replace Lucio Filomeno, as coach Pavlos Dermitzakis was looking to inject fresh legs in his team ahead of extra time.
As everyone was mentally preparing for a penalty shoot-out, Pablo García played the ball back to his goalkeeper Dario Krešić and the latter kicked it forward towards Vieirinha. The Portuguese winger headed the ball at the path of Zlatan Muslimović who charged into the area and fired the equalizer. He celebrated it by taking off his PAOK shirt, putting it on the corner flag and waving it in front of the travelling fans.
Triumph over Tottenham
On 30 November 2011, PAOK needed a good result against the Spurs in England to maintain hope of qualifying to the knock-out stage of the UEFA Europa League. They caught their rivals off guard after just six minutes of play, when Dimitris Salpingidis made the most of Giorgos Georgiadis’ cross scoring the opener with a header. Stefanos Athanasiadis doubled PAOK’s lead a few minutes later, with a close tap-in teed also by Georgiadis.
Tottenham were looking for a way to find a crack and squeeze through PAOK’s defence. They only managed to reduce distances from the spot in the 38th minute, in an erroneous decision by Dutch referee Bas Nijhuis. He adjudged Stafylidis’ clearance as hand foul, while the video replay clearly showed that was not the case. Luka Modrić converted the penalty. Spurs stepped on the throttle looking for the equalizer, but to no avail.
Even reduced to ten players, PAOK managed to hold on to their victory. Despite their domination, Tottenham didn’t create real danger in Chalkias’ box. The PAOK faithful who made the trip to London were also impressive that evening, earning flattering headlines in the English press.
PAOK free of burden
Since 12 May 2015, PAOK FC can boast that they are debt-free. They are clean, free, without the burden of the past. All that thanks to Ivan Savvidis who took care of their debts.
Since 12 May 2015, PAOK FC can boast that they are debt-free. They are clean, free, without the burden of the past. All that thanks to Ivan Savvidis who took care of their debts.
In his initial press conference conceded in 2012, PAOK FC major shareholder Ivan Savvidis had said: “PAOK’s debts become now my debts as well. I owe nothing to nobody and soon PAOK will not be owing either”.
Three years later, PAOK FC were relieved of all debts, in one of the most important days in their history! Through a series of personal interventions, Ivan Savvidis completed the final payment of all outstanding debts that had been a millstone around the club’s neck since the previous decade.
PAOK FC’s case complied with the recent law draft that enables the club to pay the full amount of their debt! By paying 10.886.811 euros, PAOK FC are freed from their past burdens! They can also boast being the only football company in history to choose full payment of all outstanding debts!
An evening in Dortmund
Unpredictability makes football even more attractive. It’s been proven time and again. Repetition never hurt anyone. Especially when this rule is proven right in one of the planet’s most impressive grounds.
On 10 December 2015, PAOK recorded arguably their most important away win in European competition. In theory, “Double-Headed Eagle” had nothing to play for, as they were already eliminated. Furthermore, Igor Tudor rotated his troops ahead of the league game against Levadiakos. His players however achieved a great victory, based on their impeccable defending and a dream goal. Excellent combinations, textbook transition and a solid finish by Róbert Mak.
The line-up that wrote history in Germany: Glykos, Skondras, Μalezas, Τzavellas, Κonstantinidis, Μystakidis (77’ Rodrigues), Τziolis, Κace, Cimirot, Μak (66’ Leovac), Berbatov (71’ Sabo).