Mimis Papaioannou

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Mimis Papaioannou
Personal information
Full name Dimitrios Papaioannou
Date of birth (1942-08-23) 23 August 1942 (age 79)
Place of birth Nea Nikomedeia, Greece
Height 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)
Position(s) Striker, Attacking midfielder
Youth career
1957–1960 Nea Genea
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1960–1962 Veria
1962–1979 AEK Athens 480 (234)
1979–1982 New York Pancyprian-Freedoms
National team
1963–1978 Greece 61 (21)
Teams managed
1982–1986 New York Pancyprian-Freedoms
1988 Kerkyra
1988–1989 Olympiacos Chalkida
1991–1992 Kefalonia
1992–1994 Greece (assistant)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Dimitrios "Mimis" Papaioannou (Greek: Μίμης Παπαϊωάννου; born 23 August 1942) is a Greek former professional footballer who played as a forward, mostly for AEK Athens. Papaioannou was a symbol of morality and faith for AEK Athens and the Greek football. He played for the same team for the most of his career and was never shown a single red card while being spotted only three times with a yellow, showing a wonderful prudence and integrity of character. Papaioannou was considered to be the best Greek footballer of his generation and one of the best Greek footballers of all time, being awarded as the best Greek footballer of the 20th Century by IFFHS.[1]

Early life[edit]

Mimis Papaioannou was born on 23 August 1942 in Nea Nikomedeia of Imathia. His father, Kostas was the curator of the local football team Nea Genea and so little Mimis came in touch with the football fields from an early age. His football talent and his love for the soccer ball were unquestionable. His love of football and the financial difficulties of his family forced him to leave school early and split his time between the stadium and the barber shop in the village where he worked as an assistant.

Club career[edit]

Early career[edit]

At the age of 15 he joined Nea Genea and played in the team's offence. His name and abilities quickly became known in the capital of the prefecture of Veria and to the agents of the local club, as a result of which he transferred to it with a promising 1959 at the age of 17. His appearances in the "Queen of the North" aroused the interest of the big teams of Thessaloniki but also of the then-coach of AEK Athens, Tryfon Tzanetis.[2] The offers of the teams of Thessaloniki do not meet the requirements of his team and in fact his transfer to PAOK breaks for a difference of 20,000 drachmas. In 1961, Tzanetis suggested and persuaded Nikos Goumas to offer 175,000 drachmas to his team and 25,000 drachmas to him for the acquisition of 19-year-old Papaioannou. The young striker of refugee origin is hesitant, as on the one hand there was his sporting sympathy for the northern Greece, PAOK and the neighboring move to Thessaloniki, while on the other hand there was the greater name of AEK and most of the money that was more than an immediate need for his family, with the almost expatriate in the distant Athens, a prerequisite but eventually Papaioannou choose the Athenian club.[3]

AEK Athens[edit]

Thus, in the summer of 1962, the 20-year-old Mimis Papaioannou dressed in the yellow and black jersey, starting an integral course of 18 years that elevated him to one of the greatest players in the history of AEK Athens. For AEK, "The Vlach" (Greek: "Βλάχος"), as was the nickname they gave him, was the last piece of the puzzle that Kostas Nestoridis had been trying to match for years and lead the club to the title of Champion. With "Nestoras" they create an incredible attacking duo, flooded with technique, passion, strength and pluralism in execution that proves deadly for the opposing defenses. At the end of the 1962-63 season, AEK is tied for 1st place with Panathaikos and the conquest of the title is judged in a draw. Papaioannou scored twice, Nestoridis scored from a direct corner kick and a 3–3 draw according to the then regulations gives the title to the team with the best goal ratio in the regular season. The 39 goals scored by the two of them and the total goal difference of 66–21 lead AEK to win the league after 23 years. As Mimis Papaioannou himself has narrated, after the end of that barrage and seeing all the members of the team in the locker room crying for this success, he was grafted as a newcomer with the yellow and black ideals, he also cried and "became a supporter of AEK".[3] In 1964 he became the top scorer of the league ending Nestoridis' 5-year-streak.

The continue for AEK and Papaioannou was almost magical as he showed that he will be the one to take the lead from Nestoridis, taking AEK as high as he could. His appearances and achievements quickly put the short attacker in the heart of the people of the club. The fans adored him and he rewarded them with passion for the jersey with the Double-Headed Eagle. His high technique and continuous scoring with spectacular goals, while his extraordinary ability to "stand" in the air more than any opponent defender and shoot with his head the opposition goalkeepers and gave the admiration of not only the Greek fans, but also of foreigners that happened to watch him play. One of these foreigners was to be the legendary "Galloping Major", Ferenc Puskás who as a Real Madrid player on 12 May 1965 saw Papaioannou scoring a brace against the Spanish "Queen" in the friendly 3-3 on Nea Filadelfeia. "Pancho" immediately suggested to the management of Real the acquisition of the Greek striker. Real's proposal to AEK was unrealistically mythical for the Greek data of the time. The Castigians offered 4 million drachmas to AEK and 750,000 to the player for Papaioannou to move to Madrid. The fabulous amount and the prospect of a career in the football light years away from Greece's standards, Spain ignites Mimis' desire for a transfer, but that desire was never fulfilled due to the fear of the club at the thought of the fans' reactions to a possible sale of Papaioannou.[4][3]

Career break and singing[edit]

His anger was such, that he was about to leave football.[2] Afterwards, Papaioannou was approached by a folk composer and bouzouki player, Christos Nikolopoulos which brought him in contact with Stelios Kazantzidis. Mimis and Stelios have unlimited mutual respect and admiration for each other's abilities and Kazantzidis finds that Papaioannou, in addition to his footballing skills, also has a very good singing voice and suggests that he follow him to concerts in Germany with Marinella.[5] Mimis accepted and went to Germany, singing to the Greek immigrants there. After two months and despite Papaioannou's vocal competence, Kazantzidis, realized the "crime" of the departure of Mimis from the football stadiums, persuading him to return to AEK and mediated himself with the administration in order for Papaioannou to sign a very satisfactory contract. Papaioannou's singing career was limited to the recording of seven songs by Stelios Kazantzidis and Christos Nikolopoulos between 1971 and 1972. Among them was the recording on 19 June 1971 of the famous "Hymn of AEK" to music by Stelios Kazantzidis and lyrics by Christos Kolokotronis.[6]

Return to AEK[edit]

Papaioannou returned to his two great loves, AEK and football and became the undisputed leader of the team, after the departure of Nestoridis. A leader who proved to be the most effective of all as he manages to lead the "Union" to 4 more Championships, 2 Greek Cups, 1 Double, a European Cup Quarterfinal and a UEFA Cup Semifinal. His leadership skills and ability to inspire his teammates were what counted on 27 October 1968 in Faliro against Olympiacos, when the "master of psychology", Branko Stanković decided not to make the substitution, even after dismissal of Stelios Serafidis for hitting Sideris, sending Papaioannou to defend as a goalkeeper the yellow and black goalpost for the remaining 5 minutes of the match. Papaioannou, after first made sure to score the third goal for AEK in the 78th minute, giving it a 2–3 lead, kept the goalpost untouched with absolute success, even making two great saves. His unparalleled football intelligence and high technical training led in 1976 the other great "guru" of coaching, František Fadrhonc to relocate him as a classic "10" in the great team of Loukas Barlos, and having in front of him players like Mavros, Wagner, Ardizoglou and Tasos Konstantinou. Papaioannou responded excellently as a provider, never neglecting his favorite goal scoring habits. In his last years at AEK he was happy to be a member of the teams of the periods 1976-1980 that for many have presented on the field the most complete and spectacular image that the Greek fans have ever seen.[3] He became the club's ever top scorer and when he left AEK he was the league's all-time top scorer, a record broken 11 years later by his teammate, Thomas Mavros. Today, Papaioannou can be found in the 3rd place of all-time top scorers of Greek 1st division.[7] Papaioannou left AEK in the summer of 1979 in order to play for the New York Pancyprian-Freedoms and where after a successful 3-year spell, he ended his great career as a football player, at the age of 40.

The component of all these virtues and talents, was given to perfection by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) in January 1999 when he was named the Top Greek Footballer of the 20th Century.[8][3]

International career[edit]

Papaioannou was capped 61 times by the Greek National Team scoring 21 goals being Greece's ever top scorer, at the time, until Anastopoulos surpassed him in 1986 and now he is among the top 5 goalscorers. His debut was on 27 November 1963 in a friendly away 3-1 loss against Cyprus, under Tzanetis. Although it was the first international match of Papaioannou was the captain of Greece.[9]

Coaching career[edit]

Papaioannou, after leaving AEK in 1979, went in the USA as a player-coach for New York Pancyprian-Freedoms, where he won a double in the local Championship and Cup. He remained there until 1986 initially as a player, then as a player-coach and eventually only as a coach. Although he was approaching 40, in 1981 he attracted the interest of the top professional league in the US, NASL, but he had already decided to retire.[10] After his return to Greece, some coaching attempts at clubs such as Kerkyra and others were not crowned with success. The 1991–92 season found Papaioannou in Kefalonia, where he was active professionally and at the local time coached the team of Evgeros, which was promoted from the local championships to the fourth division.[11] He also coached national teams and was at the side of Alketas Panagoulias in the Men's National Cup as an assistant, at the 1994 World Cup in the USA.[2][3]


Season Club League Cup Europe National Team Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
1962–63 AEK Athens 31 16 2 1 0 0 0 0 33 17
1963–64 30 29 4 5 1 0 4 3 39 37
1964–65 31 12 3 1 2 1 5 5 41 19
1965–66 27 24 3 4 0 0 1 1 31 29
1966–67 22 10 3 3 2 1 3 0 30 14
1967–68 27 19 3 1 0 0 3 1 33 21
1968–69 33 20 2 4 6 3 8 3 49 30
1969–70 31 18 1 1 0 0 2 0 34 19
1970–71 34 27 8 11 2 0 9 2 53 40
1971–72 25 12 3 4 2 1 5 1 35 18
1972–73 21 7 3 3 4 0 5 0 33 10
1973–74 23 7 2 0 0 0 0 0 25 7
1974–75 34 10 3 1 0 0 5 3 42 13
1975–76 30 11 3 3 4 1 3 0 40 15
1976–77 30 3 2 2 10 3 5 2 47 11
1977–78 31 7 4 1 4 1 3 0 42 9
1978–79 20 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 21 2
Career total 480 234 50 45 37 11 61 21 628 311


As a player[edit]

AEK Athens
1963, 1968, 1971, 1978, 1979
1964, 1966, 1978
New York Pancyprian-Freedoms
1962, 1963
Greek Championship Top Goalscorer: (2) 1964, 1966
Greek football player of the 20th Century

As a coach[edit]

New York Pancyprian-Freedoms
1982, 1983

Singing career[edit]

The 7 songs with the voice of Mimis Papaioannou were recorded on Polyphone during the period 1971–1972 with the collaboration of Christos Nikolopoulos and Stelios Kazantzidis:[6]

  1. Mes ti fotia mou (Μες τη φωτιά μου) - St. Kazantzidis, G. Vassilopoulos (1971)
  2. Α.Ε.Κ.-Hymn of AEK (Α.Ε.Κ.-Ύμνος της ΑΕΚ) - St. Kazantzidis, Chr. Kolokotronis (recorded 19 June 1971)
  3. San pouli kinigimeno (Σαν πουλί κυνηγημένο) - St. Kazantzidis, G. Vassilopoulos (1971)
  4. Eho elattomata (Έχω ελαττώματα) - Chr. Nikolopoulos, Pythagoras (1971)
  5. San theatrinos (Σαν θεατρίνος) - St. Kazantzidis, Evag. Atraidis (1972)
  6. Ftanoun i pikres (Φτάνουν οι πίκρες) - St. Kazantzidis, Evag. Atraidis (1972)
  7. Martyres i pikres mou (Μάρτυρες οι πίκρες μου) - Chr. Nikolopoulos, G. Vassilopoulos (1972)


  1. ^ "ΜΙΜΗΣ ΠΑΠΑΪΩΑΝΝΟΥ Ο κορυφαίος Έλληνας ποδοσφαιριστής του 20ου αιώνα, όπως αναδείχθηκε από τη Διεθνή Υπηρεσία Στατιστικής Ποδοσφαίρο… | Athens greece, Athens, Greece".
  2. ^ a b c "ΜΙΜΗΣ ΠΑΠΑΪΩΑΝΝΟΥ Θέλησα να φύγω με το κεφάλι ψηλά". 31 July 1999.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Μίμης Παπαϊωάννου".
  4. ^ "Όταν η ΑΕΚ αρνήθηκε μυθική πρόταση της Ρεάλ για τον Παπαϊωάννου".
  5. ^ "Η ιστορία του Μίμη Παπαϊωάννου (ΦΩΤΟ & ΒΙΝΤΕΟ)".
  6. ^ a b "Μίμης Παπαϊωάννου: Από το γήπεδο στο τραγούδι".
  7. ^ "Μίμης Παπαϊωάννου".
  8. ^ "Ευλογημένο Ποδόσφαιρο : Μίμης Παπαιωάννου".
  9. ^ https://www.epo.gr/media/files/ETHNIKES_OMADES/MATCH_ANDRES_1929-2000/ethniki_andrwn_1961-65.pdf
  10. ^ https://www.skroutz.gr/books/a.44685.papaioannou-mimis.html
  11. ^ "Ο "κορυφαίος" πέρασε από την Κεφαλονιά! - KEFALONITIS | Το online περιοδικό για την Κεφαλονιά".

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