The sports documentary is a virtually unknown genre in Greece, either we talk about a standalone film or, more to the point, an entire TV series.
Abroad, on the other hand, in countries such as the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and others, sports documentary thrives and what is more, in vast diversity.
Many such documentaries or entire series, produced abroad, have been repeatedly screened in Greece.
Still, this is but a small fraction of what was is being produced in this field.
When we talk about sports documentaries, we are not talking about sports reporting or programs similar in style to sports reporting. Nor about an analysis or debate in the studio.
The sports documentary attempts to look at a sports event, a great team or a big athlete in a way, that we seldom get the chance to see in the news or a typical sports news program.
The people portrayed in a sports documentary are presented almost like literary characters, dramatic or comic, but definitely genuine. People and events are paralleled with History and society.
The sports spectacle (the game) exists as pure entertainment or as a way for the masses to let off steam, but there are more viewpoints to it.
All that, however, lean towards an entirely human oriented approach and through antitheses and opposite forces, they are merged together in one body
The players, the coaches, the managers, the refs, injustice and favoritism, the money, the icons, overexposure, the rise and the fall from fame, the fate factor, the strong and the weak, the ‘go-beyond’, the collective and the individual, the intervention of History, the social, class and political background, the spiritual, mental and physical strength, are, among other things, the primary sources for a sports documentary. And that is why the sports documentary is not only aimed at the match-goers or the fans of sports programs, but at everyone. Even those who are not friends of sports, football, basketball, etc.
My relationship with sports incorporates nearly forty years.
As early as the age of 10, I had become a special type of football fan.
I was fascinated by the history of all teams, both Greek and foreign. National teams and football clubs.
I watched football, basketball and athletics passionately.
I did not go to the games very often. I read a lot about the history of the teams, the players, the coaches, the legends, the great games as well as about the lesser known stories.
From the beginning, I followed sports with the eye of a historian and a reporter.
I read newspapers, I cut out clippings, I collected magazines and in the 80s and 90s, I taped everything on video like a maniac (a VHS video back then): foreign sports documentaries, highlights and interviews on the sports section of the news, while I bought as many sports books as possible. I soaked up sports in every possible way. In other words I was a sui generis devotee. All that, had obviously defined me deeply. Later, between the ages of 15 to 18, I got involved, myself, in track and field. I ran 400 metres and took up long jumping, while I played basketball as well.
At one point, for a period of three years, I was thinking about becoming a sports journalist.
Ultimately, I decided that my passion for the cinema was greater.
Having already started to work in the cinema and on documentaries, the idea of the sports documentary inevitably popped up. My first attempt took place in 2001, while I was working for the documentary TV series “Paraskinio”. It was “The everlasting spell of the 'round goddess'”.
The following year, I began working with the poet and journalist Sotiris Kakisis, presenting together, 30 radio sports documentaries in a year. It was the pre-Olympic years, before the Athens Games. We presented some of the leading historical figures in football, basketball, athletics, water polo, volleyball, wrestling etc.
The program was called "Mythomania" and aired on ERA-SPORTS, in the season 2002-03.
It was a unique experience. I got to know many of my childhood heroes in person and had the chance to ask them whatever I wanted.
In one of these episodes, I met the great Yannis Kouros, the legendary ultramarathon runner and asked him to let me make a documentary film about him, where Giorgos Argyroiliopoulos, co-producer and director of photography, and myself would film him for a period of two years.
Yannis accepted and that resulted in my first documentary feature film, which turned out to be about sports. It received a lot of praise and won an award in Thessaloniki.
In the years that followed, I wrote a book about football. It was published in 2005 and had the title "The Football Novel". It was an attempt, by combining texts and photographs, to narrate some short stories from Greek and international football, that highlighted persons and incidents in such a way that it allowed the reader to recognize a different while at the same time not unknown, dimension of the game.
It was something like a printed documentary.
In 2010 I made a two-part tribute to the stadium on Alexandras avenue, for “Paraskinio”.
But my two major works on this genre, the greatest in size and more ambitious, were two sports documentary TV series.
The first was made in 2009 for SKAI television. It was a 15-episode sports documentary series, entitled "Forever champions".
The second one was made for the public television NERIT (ERT was temporarily renamed this). It was an 8-episode run and went by the title “In the fever of the World Cup”.