Episode 1: "Greek National football team, 1929-1969 - From the origins until the disqualification in Mexico"
The history of the Greek national footbal team, from the unfortunate first match of 1929, until the great squad that didn’t make it into the WorldCup of 1970.
Episode 2: "Greek National football team, 1970-1981 - The Magic Touch of Alketas"
The 1970s and the reign of Alketas Panagoulias.
Episode 3: "Greek National football team, 1981- 2001 - The difficult years before Rehhagel"
The era of score ups and downs, great players and major letdowns.
Episode 4: "Greek National football team, 2001-2014 - The years of glory"
The years of success. Rehhagel and the Euro 2004; Santos and the WorldCup in Barzil and other great moments.
Episode 5: "Exploring the Myth of the World Cup"
What is the World Cup? Why and how does it affect our lives and how does it brighten our summers?
Episode 6: "The stunning moments"
Moments, highlights, events, colors, sensations, games and goals that have left an imprint upon the collective unconscious.
Episode 7: "The Heroes, the fateful and the brutes"
There were the masters who became heroes, the great who never made it and the brutes we love to hate.
Episode 8: "The great schools of football"
The finesse of the school of central-Europe, the total football of Cruyff and the Netherlands, the Brazilian dancing players, the pragmatic Germans and the sneaky Italians are only some of the styles that bring joy into our lives and make football move forward.
Andreas Bomis, Vassilis Hatzipanagis, Angelos Haristeas, Nikos Katsaros, Alexis Spyropoulos, Kostas Vernikos, Kostas Katsouranis, Savvas Kofidis, Dimitris Salpingidis, Ilias Rosidis, Anthimos Kapsis, Michalis Kapsis, Takis Nikoloudis, Mimis Domazos, Aristeidis Kamaras, Stratos Apostolakis, Nikos Sarganis, Kostas Eleftherakis, Takis Economopoulos, Kostas Polychroniou, Thanassis Chimonas, Konstantinos Kamaras, Nasos Katsochis, Panos Dafnos, Kostas Dafnos, Sotiris Kakisis, Giorgos Lykouropoulos, Fotos Lambrinos, Tassos Pavlopoulos, Hagen Fleischer, Juan Ramon Rocha, Neto Guerino and Serco Bourselian.
The most ill-fated of all the series I have done.
And definitely one of the best.
In the early 2014 the board of NERIT, (the new name of the public television after the barbaric closure of ERT, in June 2013) figured out that they were bound by international contracts to broadcast the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
All the more reason, because the Greek National football team was participating and with high hopes.
Therefore, they were desperate to produce a documentary series that would serve as an introduction to the great television spectacle that was the World Cup.
Katerina Evangelakou, my good friend and colleague who had recently been appointed deputy general manager, informed me they were considering a World Cup series. She knew well that not only was I extremely well-read on the subject, but most importantly, that my expertise would enable me to meet the pressing deadlines.
For my part, I certainly wanted to make such a series, because it was an opportunity to develop my involvement with sports documentary even further and what is more, it was related to the World Cup, a subject I was really familiar with.
A tender was issued and I submitted a proposal for an eight episode series, which was soon approved, since, as I was informed, it was the only one on the subject in question.
After the series had been approved, I was asked that it had a presenter, but who could not come from the NERIT’s sports department. I suggested Christos Sotirakopoulos as the most obvious choice. They accepted, but wanted Antonis Panoutsos and Antonis Karpetopoulos as well.
Therefore, I resorted to a theme separation.
The first four episodes, in the history of the National football team, would be presented by Sotirakopoulos, whereas the other four, that focused on the World Cup, would have Panoutsos and Karpetopoulos as studio presenters.
I started working intensively on the preparation, but soon, numerous problems came up.
Apart from the original footage for the first four episodes, we were getting from the ERT national archives, we also needed international archival material from the history of the World Cup, which was coming from FIFA.
NERIT, at the time, was not fully operational; departments were understaffed, while the deadlines were suffocating.
I requested that the production be split between NERIT, which owned the archival footage, and an independent producer. I did not want to get involved in this, as I had to concentrate on a laborious creative project.
They replied that a split production was not possible, as there was not yet a legal department to handle it, while there was no time to involve an independent executive producer and therefore, I had to undertake production as well.
I was asked to start shooting immediately and informed that the contract and any particulars would be taken care of, at a later date.
Time was moving on, the contract had not been signed so far, the order of the FIFA footage had yet to be approved, I was carrying on with shooting without fail (otherwise we would not be able to make it on time) and if that wasn’t enough, some serious bickering had started.
The CEO, George Prokopakis, resigned, leaving everything up in the air.
I found myself caught in a web of disorganization and soon after that, Katerina Evangelakou left as well.
It needs to be said that Katerina might have been impetuous, but she gave up everything in order to guarantee quality programs.
By that time, it was evident that regardless of the contract (which by then had been signed, since the editing had already begun), no one in NERIT wanted, supported or even cared in the least about the series.
I was trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare. Time was running out and everything was pending.
I edited the episodes, not knowing if and when the archival footage was coming.
There is no need to say more about the situation. And I do not think I should.
The obstacles and the difficulties I faced on a daily basis are beyond belief.
I got sick and it took a lot of time to recover.
The series was broadcast without any media publicity. It seemed to vanish into thin air, at a time when NERIT had very poor ratings.
The Program Supervisor, at the time, did not wish to run it again, not even once and the same happened with ERT after it started broadcasting again.
To my mind, despite all the colossal and unforeseen difficulties, the series turned out extraordinary.
That was what the majority of the audience thought as well, after that one-time-only broadcast one week before the World Cup began.
That was the reason why, as soon as they aired, videos of all episodes were uploaded on YouTube by random users and have had thousands of views. Even though ERT won’t show them on rerun.
In “World Cup Fever”, the extensive and rich ERT archives as well as the FIFA footage were put to good use creatively; the approach to the subject was well-informed, meticulous and original; there was diversity of interviews and locations (both in Athens and Thessaloniki)
and the program, overall, justified the role of state television as an organization which possesses a valuable archival collection and knows how to use it.
In the first four episodes on the National football team, we made excellent use of rare archival footage, that had not been shown since the early 70s, and which featured (among other things) great figures that are now long gone, such as the great Pentzaropoulos, Yamalis, Vazos, Giorgos Andrianopoulos, Kleanthis Vikelidis and many more.
Later on, on the second episode, which focuses on the era of Alketas Panagoulias, one has the chance to see vintage footage of great football aces, with period interviews by Giorgos Delikaris (who has not shown on camera for forty years), Eleftherakis, Sarafis and Synetopoulos, with an old news report before the illustrious match against Brazil, in 1974, and of course with Alketas Panagoulias himself in rare TV appearances.
These are but a fraction of the material we managed to dig up (only because we knew what to look for and how), which was integrated into the series to enrich it.
The archival films were combined with new footage and interviews, clips of matches and, of course, the commentary of Christos Sotirakopoulos and resulted in a film that is analytical, comparative, filled with memories and thoroughly justifies the entire project.
The four episodes on the history of the National team, were structured in a way that besides his commentary on the respective stages in the historical course of the team, Sotirakopoulos discusses with a prominent journalist from each period.
Therefore, he meets with Nikos Katsaros, Andreas Bomis, Alexis Spyropoulos and Kostas Vernikos.
It should be noted that Christos Sotirakopoulos and I had an excellent and productive collaboration.
In these episodes, programs, such as Andreas Bomis’ “Athlorama”, which had not been viewed since the early 70s (!!!) were put into good use creatively, and the old sports reports by historic ERT journalists (such as Tsochos, Kyriazis, Synodinos, Fountoukidis, Mavrommatis and of course Bomis himself) were re-edited and used as valuable archival films, thus promoting the history of ERT itself.
The four episodes on the National team complemented by those I had made for “Forever Champions” on the same subject form a first-time comprehensive documentary on the history of the National football team.
Equally, in the remaining four episodes, that deal with the history of the World Cup and the phenomenon of the Cup is analyzed from every aspect by a wide range speakers, not through a sterile chronological juxtaposition of footage and information, but through theme chapters that probe into, reveal, compare highlight and combine, engaging the viewer, who ends up richer after having watched the series.
On final reflection upon the two lengthy series of sports documentaries I have made, as well as on all other subject-related documentaries I mentioned previously, I come to the conclusion that the sports documentary is a genre that people enjoy very much, whether they watch it on TV, on the internet or on a DVD, but the truth is there is no established culture to facilitate or even allow its development.
In both the series I made for SKAI and NERIT, I met raging resistance (to put it mildly) from certain people in the respective sports departments.
But not even the owners and/or chief executives of TV stations seem to be able to appreciate the true value of the series.
The same applies to independent producers, who could have contributed to the production of such series.
But even the protagonists themselves, the athletes and sports people, who most of the time (but not always) gladly participate in such projects, cannot easily discern the difference between the plain sports report and the fully documented sports film.
When the camera starts rolling, everything seems the same to them.
The bottomline is that there is absolutely no support.
To be correct, with the knowledge, the love and the experience I acquire, I should be in a position to make a lot more sports documentaries and with much better terms.
I should be the one approached for such projects and not arrive at a dead end every time I propose something.
All the sports documentaries I have made, despite the favorable response they got, have been aired only once. They didn’t even have one rerun.
And all the similar propositions I have made ever since then have fallen through.
It is clear that we, both as a country and as a TV culture, are very much behind in this genre...