The stadium on Alexandras Avenue has hosted some the greatest moments in Greek football (of Panathinaikos, the National team, Olympiacos and AEK), basketball (at the famed ‘Hindu’s Tomb’), as well as in Athenian politics and arts scene.
Mimis Domazos, Antonis Antoniadis, Yannis Papantoniou, Thodoris Manikas and Vassilis Tsartas.
That was a documentary I had been longing to make for years. My connection with the stadium on Alexandras Avenue had always been very close. For many years now, I have been living in the area and I walk past the stadium every day. So, one part of my association has to do with my capacity as an Athenian, a resident in the vicinity. Another part is linked to my obsession with History and this stadium is full of history; sports history; political and cultural history.
And last but not least, it is the homebase of the football team I support. I have been a friend of Panathinaikos since I was three, back in 1971. It was then when my father (who hated football, but of all teams he preferred Panathinaikos, because he was from Athens), a few days before the final against Belgrade’s Red Star, he took my brother and me to the Panellinios Market on Stadiou street and bought us Panathinaikos T-shirts.; my brother got the thick-striped variety and I got the one with the thin stripes.
Kostas, just like our father, never developed an interest for football in his short life.
But I got hooked. Ever since 1971, I have been supported Panathinaikos, with a short break when Domazos transferred to AEK for one and a half years. Since then, I have been very fond of AEK as well. It is my second favorite team.
I went to the stadium for the first time in 1980. It was January and the game was very unusual. Panathinaikos had just been humiliated by Iraklis, lead by the great Hatzipanagis, with an unprecedented 6-0!!! The traditional derby against Olympiacos was scheduled next. But the main particularity of the game was the return of Domazos, after his stormy departure from the team and subsequent transfer to AEK. I had switched myself from AEK to Panathinaikos shortly before; in a way it was I who opened the way for Domazos return...
I was 12. Panathinaikos was ahead 2-0 and Domazos, approaching 40, was having the game of his life. It was the only time I got to see him play live.
That game was one of many for which I collected some rare archival footage to incorporate in the two-part documentary about the stadium.
I should stress that the archival footage, which was remarkable, extremely rare and authentic, was screened largely for the first time on TV.
The stadium served as a homebase, apart from the National team (since 1929), of Olympiacos, AEK and of course Panathinaikos. The spectator area, as well as the field, was the background of huge election rallies, extraordinary concerts, while the historic ‘Hindu’s Tomb’, the legendary basketball court was also situated on a lower level underneath the field.
After having collected numerous stories, both known and unknown, involving the stadium as well as an extensive body of archival footage, I made this picture, which is very dear to me.
I wrote the scripts and did the narration myself and shot interviews of the famous duo, Domazos - Antoniadis, the mythical Yannis Papantoniou -the neglected playmaker of the 50s-, Vassilis Tsartas, who shot the penalty that opened the way for the 2004 triumph, in Portugal, as well as Thodoris Manikas, not only a friend of Panathinaikos, but also an expert on music and savvy of the great concerts that were held in the stadium, the most historic being the Rolling Stones concert, in 1967.
This is not a film by a football club fanatic, which is something I hate. Even though it is about the historic homebase of Panathinaikos, there are also stories from the Asia Minor Catastrophe, the National Liberation Front, Makronisos, the Averof Prison, the Junta, the Transition to democracy, the great concerts, from the Rolling Stones to Mikis Theodorakis, as well as of the National football, team, Olympiacos and AEK.
It is a film that conveys the spirit of a stadium that belongs to all of us.