In that series we tried to encompass the history of major Greek football and basketball teams and the respective National teams as the climax.
This was an extremely ambitious series. The first one on such scale in the history of Greek television.
It was prefaced by a special agreement between SKAI and ERT, that authorized the former to use archival footage on lease, so that the series would be of the highest possible quality.
At that time, my good friend, journalist George Lykouropoulos, was the head of the sports department of “Kathimerini” (a newspaper that belonged in the same news group as SKAI).
SKAI had already decided to produce a sports documentary series, but had not found the right person to undertake the filmmaking part of the project.
There was only Konstantinos Kamaras, writer and son of Aristeidis Kamaras, who was going to write the script texts for the series.
George Lykouropoulos referred me as a director and the overall supervisor, since he knew of my special relationship with the subject of sports and thus began a real adventure.
The commission was for fifteen 45-minute episodes to focus on the history of the major football and basketball teams in Greece in great detail.
The time allocated for preparation, shooting and editing of these 15 episodes was one year, an extremely limited time for a project of this extent.
Thankfully, I was very familiar with the topic and I had no need to research or to delve into the history of the teams. In any other case, the series would be absolutely impossible.
There had been many problems in matters of production, which were not the fault of the TV station, but caused great obstacles the procedure as well as to my job, especially since I had assumed the overall responsibility for the shooting and the direction, the planning of the series, the historical documentation, the processing of all interviews (not having any consultant or journalist to assist me), the collection of the extensive and hard-to-find archival material and at the same time the work in the editing room. It could not have been done in any other way. There was no other filmmaker with my expertise, able to deal with minor or major matters of historical accuracy that could have come up and called for quick problem solving and, what is more, there was no time to involve anyone else as back up, as this would lead to discrepancies of style and coordination problems, given the limited timeframe.
On the one hand, I was fully aware that the opportunity presented to me was great, as for the first time in the history of Greek television and despite all the difficulties, we had the chance to put together a comprehensive mural, a complete historical record of football and basketball in Greece.
I was fortunate enough to have had some excellent partners in the creative part of the series; first and foremost Konstantinos Kamaras.
When we realized that the nature of the project, which was a live documentary, based on the information that came from the interviews, in conjunction with the suffocating time limitations, would possibly hamper the procedure, I suggested I drew up the scripts for the narration, as far as content was concerned, which would enable me to control the flow of the narrative during the editing, the correspondence of narration to the interviews and the overall continuity on every episode.
He wrote the scripts in his own special literary style and I suggested he did the narration himself as he had a highly suitable voice for it.
Being himself a man with profound knowledge on football since he was an infant, as the son of the great football player Aristeidis Kamaras, in combination with his superb voice and literary skill, he was the ideal partner and co–creator of the series. Cinematography was assigned to my regular collaborator and close friend, Claudio Bolivar. Another close friend and journalist, Akis Papadopoulos, made a decisive contribution in archival research. Post production was split between six different editors: the regular and permanent collaborators, Dora Masklavanou and Myrto Lekatsa, the dear friend, Kyros Papavassiliou and Gogo Bebelou, Thodoris Armaos and Dimitris Tolios, with whom we were going to work together for the first time.
The shooting lasted a total of four months and took place in Athens and Thessaloniki.
The editing was a Herculean task in its own right, as four (!!) episodes had to be edited at the same time; two from the early morning till the afternoon and the other two from the afternoon until late at night. And I was always present, as I had to check every minute detail, since most of the editors (with the exception of Kyros), knew very little about football.
At the same time, the video and film archival footage, that came both from ERT and the National Audiovisual Archive, as well as an extensive body of photographs, newspapers, magazines, etc. were collected, with great difficulties and setbacks.
A great part of the documents and photographs came from libraries, my personal collection and the individual collections of many of the speakers.
The volume of the archival material that was put together was unprecedented.
As a result of our knowledge of the specific needs of the series, as well as of the archives we were researching, we ensured material of enormous significance and value.
Similarly, the interviews were numerous and very rich in quality, in order to cover the full range of issues we were trying to examine.
Athletes, coaches and journalists were the live sources.
Many of them were really speaking on camera for the first time.
Others were long forgotten; huge names, who with their presence alone aroused old memories and stirred emotion.
The greatest component of all was the bold and ground-breaking interviews as well as the narration in the series.
We got to hear for the first time personal opinions, events, interpretations of events and anecdotes, which together with the archival material and the voiceover shaped the narrative of the history of the two most popular sports in Greece, in an exciting and original way. The series is an important record, not only because of the people who were interviewed, several of whom have died since, but also because of the wealth of archival material as well as its historical accuracy and precision.
And it should be noted that the purpose of the series was not to flatter the teams nor to glorify their achievements.
I believe that all instances of triumph must be set against the great disasters and failures, that had preceded them.
That way, a viewer or even a fan, will be able to understand and sense the real sequence of events; that nothing is manna from heaven; that all great achievements, presented in each episode are the result of sweat, blood and tears, in the same way as happens in life.
Moreover, the series did not take sides, in order to be able to engage with all audiences. Additionally, it presented an abundance of images and stories alternating one another and certainly some memorable characters. The interviewees stood out, because they were afforded ample television time and they took on features of dramatic heroes, and reunited the viewer with memories of his fathers and grandfather and all of them with the history of Greece.
I am very proud of that series, I would be lying if I said otherwise.
And I am also saddened by the fact that, effectively, it was only screened just once, in the fall of 2009, with only a few individual episodes shown on rerun.
I should point out, that because of the excessive body of material, and bearing in mind that such endeavor is not easily repeated in Greece, I proposed that in addition to the 45-minute versions, destined for TV viewing on SKAI, longer versions be made, without any extra fee for me, but only paying a little extra for the editors.
And that was what happened. We had agreed that DVDs of the longer versions would be included in a series of special editions on the history of the teams that was going to be published.
That never happened. For reasons unbeknownst to me, they eventually used the 45-minute versions.
I delivered all the extended versions of 70, 90, 100, even 120 minutes accordingly. With the exception of four episodes, where a longer version was unnecessary, longer versions were made for all other episodes.
These long versions were what I had really dreamed of and I considered them to have been real gems, one hundred times better and more complete than the 45-minute episodes.
Only few people, to whom I had managed to hand a copy in person, have had the chance to get to see them and all of them have admired them.
However, for the public as well as for the station, this series is nothing but a ghost, as far as its true value, its full content, is concerned.
I hope that at some point in the future, SKAI will air the extended versions. They have them in their archives. They have an extraordinary treasure in their hands and, perhaps not even Yannis Alafouzos himself is aware of it.
The series’ greatest reward is the many thousands of views on YouTube.
The entire series has been available on Youtube since it first aired. To this day, many users have been uploading all the episodes in full as well as separate comprehensive chapters on various topics.
And there are many cases, in which unedited extracts from the series (from all 15 episodes), have been used as the main body of other online reporting videos or new documentaries, that keep popping up everywhere on the Internet.
Web success is the real vindication for this rare and extraordinary series (I apologize for blowing my own horn) that should be regularly screened in its entirety and, what is more, in its extended versions.
In fact, this series should have been produced by ERT. On one hand because the archival material was largely their own property and on the other because that befits the role of public television. This is why I would like to stress that the initiative of SKAI for a series like this was great and unprecedented in Greek television.