OFI Crete F.C.
|Full name||Όμιλος Φιλάθλων Ηρακλείου|
|Nickname(s)||Όμιλος (The Club)|
|Ground||Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium
Heraklion, Crete, Greece
|2015–16||Gamma Ethniki, (Group 4) 1st (Promoted)|
|Website||Club home page|
|Departments of OFI|
Omilos Filathlon Irakleiou 1925 (Greek: Όμιλος Φιλάθλων Ηρακλείου 1925, Club of Fans of Heraklion 1925), is a Greek association football club based in Heraklion, on the island of Crete. It is a part of the OFI multi sports club. Outside Greece, the club is generally known as OFI Crete, however, the name Crete is not actually part of the club's official title. The team competes in Gamma Ethniki, the third division of the Greek football league system, and hosts home games at the Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium.
- 1 History
- 1.1 The foundation
- 1.2 The years before World War II (1925–1940)
- 1.3 First participation in the National League (1945–1962)
- 1.4 Attempts in the official 2nd League (1962–1968)
- 1.5 Debut in the 1st League (1968–1971)
- 1.6 Back to the 2nd league (1971–1976)
- 1.7 The years before the arrival of Eugène Gerards (1976–1985)
- 1.8 The Gerards years (1985–2000)
- 1.9 The new era (2000–2009)
- 2 Rivalries
- 3 Current squad
- 4 Club officials
- 5 Titles & honours
- 6 All the European games
- 7 Managerial history
- 8 Statistics
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The club was founded during the autumn of 1925 by a group of athletes that used to exercise in a specific gym in the city of Heraklion. The official name given to the sports club was Omilos Filathlon Irakleiou (acronym OFI). The colours that OFI used were black and white, because none of the existing sports clubs had the same colour combination in Crete. The scope of the sport club, as had been written down in the first deed of association, was to participate in all kinds of events, and exhibitions related to athletics. During the first period of OFI’s existence most of the teams founders were also members.
The years before World War II (1925–1940)
The years preceding World War II were a very difficult period not only for Crete, but for Greece in general. Thus, it was extremely difficult for OFI to travel and participate in national football tournaments. As a result, OFI was limited to matches around the island of Crete and particularly with other football clubs based in Heraklion. Strangely enough, these local matches were more frequent in comparison to the official ones of former periods. Even though official documentation does not exist, elderly fans of OFI believe that the team played around 400 matches before the Germans finally occupied Crete.
First participation in the National League (1945–1962)
After the German occupation of Greece had ended, football tournaments around the country started again. At this time there was only the "First Division" championship, in which standard football teams from Athens and Thessaloniki participated, including a few teams which qualified through preliminary rounds. However, it was almost impossible for a team coming from the province to take part in it.
This situation arose because the Hellenic Football Federation structured a system in which football teams from around the country had to play many preliminary rounds before proceeding to the national championship. As a result, even though OFI was the top football team in Crete, they could not take part in the national tournament.
After 1956, the system in Greece changed slightly. Advantages were that in some seasons the preliminary rounds were organized in groups of a few teams, where the champions of each group were promoted directly to the championship of the same season’s First Division. One of those seasons was in 1957–58. OFI played preliminary games in a group of 4 teams, where they finished in first place. Thus, OFI, for the first time in its history, participated in the Greek National Championship. However, the team could not stand the frequent trips around Greece and finished in last position. Up to 1962, when the official 2nd Division Championship was organized, OFI tried again many times, but unsuccessfully, to take part in the competition of the 1st Division again.
Attempts in the official 2nd League (1962–1968)
In 1962–63 the official Greek 2nd division league was set up for first time. OFI was one of the teams that participated in the league and completed the season in 9th position. In 1963–64 and 1964–65 OFI finished in 3rd and 5th position respectively.
In 1965–66 OFI were the champions of the 2nd Division of Greek football and only one step away from promotion to the official 1st National Division of Greek football.
Yet, the Hellenic Football Federation decided that even the champions of the 2nd Division had to play preliminary games in order to be promoted.
OFI lost in the play-off matches and remained in the 2nd Division. In 1966–67 the disappointment was huge, even though OFI ended in 3rd position. Everyone on the island of Crete was feeling that the moment where they could see the pride of their island in the top league was very close. In 1967–68 OFI finished in 2nd position and went into play-off games with the bottom team of the 1st division. The final match of the play-offs was to take place in the city of Chania, on 26 June 1968. OFI, with the help of 10,000 Cretans thrashed the team from the 1st division with a 3–0 win and made the dreams of thousands of supporters come true. OFI was an official member of the 1st National Division.
Debut in the 1st League (1968–1971)
OFI's debut in the national 1st division was very difficult. "Omilos" ended the first round in 15th position. It was a very difficult task to remain in the league. However, in the 2nd round the Cretans played magnificently and finally finished in 12th place. In the next season OFI had already gained the experience of playing in the top league of Greek football. The "Snakes" finished in 13th place, but the strange thing was that OFI remained unbeaten in almost all of their home games in Heraklion. Only two teams managed to survive and leave Crete with an away win. Thus, even if OFI was not a feared opponent, all the other teams were anxious when taking the trip to the island of Crete.
1970–71 was the worse season the team from Heraklion ever had in the 1st Division. OFI ended in 17th position and was relegated for the last time in their history to the 2nd division. The whole season was a tragedy for the Cretans. OFI had to meet "old friends" from the 2nd division again and start battling again in order to be promoted for a second time.
Back to the 2nd league (1971–1976)
OFI had been relegated again, but this time the 2nd division had changed entirely. After all, the championship had been more officially organized and opponents were tougher than before.
OFI spent another 5 seasons in the 2nd division, from 1971–72 to 1975–76. During the first season, the team was continually in 1st place.
However, at the end of the season, OFI's good performances deteriorated and they finally finished 4th. In 1972–73 the management decided on a complete overhaul of the squad. In these circumstances, the 13th position OFI achieved was predictable, yet a new era of the stars of OFI had just begun. In the next season OFI finished 6th and in 1974–75 they finished 5th. In the next season the league was divided again into two groups, each of 20 teams. The champions of each group would be promoted directly to the First National Division. OFI couldn’t afford to miss this chance. Everything started perfectly for "Omilos" in 1975–76. They finished 1st at the end of the first round with a huge lead over the runners-up and then finished the season as champions. The whole island of Crete was celebrating the promotion of OFI to the 1st division. Up to the present, (2007), OFI have never been relegated again.
The years before the arrival of Eugène Gerards (1976–1985)
During the first 3 seasons of OFI's presence in the 1st Division, the Greek championship still had an amateur status. In 1976–77, even though OFI were rookies, they finished in 6th place and gained the admiration of the whole country. In addition Dimitris Papadopoulos finished the top goal scorer of the League season. The following two seasons OFI finished 8th and 7th respectively, a period in which OFI was never once defeated in Crete. Even the "heavyweights" of the league (Panathinaikos, Olympiakos, AEK & PAOK) struggled to win any points when making the trip to the 'Genti Koule' on island of Crete.
The championship in Greece was professionalized for the 1979–80 season and in the middle of that term the Vardinogiannis group bought the football club of OFI (see rival section). During that season the only team that beat OFI at home in Crete was Panathinaikos. The Athenian team took the victory in Heraklion extremely easily with a score line of 0–3. It was the only loss endured by Cretans on the island that year, after all games had been completed OFI finished in 11th position. The next season Panathinaikos embarked on their first set of experiments on OFI. Young players came from all over the country in order to play for "Omilos". Partly because of this experimentation by their new owners OFI only managed 13th position in the League. The 1981–82 campaign saw OFI finish in 9th place and the following 1982–83 season in 7th. It seemed clear that Theodoros Vardinogiannis wanted OFI to be a stronger team in the championship. He tried to achieve that, not by spending money for good players, but by sending 2nd hand players from his other team Panathinaikos or young players that could possibly be useful to OFI, but primarily, for Panathinaikos in the future when the time was right. Thus, in 1983–84, three goalkeepers, one midfielder and one defender came from the Athenian team to Crete.
The continuing experimentation caused OFI to be disappointed yet again. OFI finished in 8th place, exactly the same position they finished next season too. Although OFI's results were not wonderful, this group of fresh players had gained experience and started to play like a team. The one thing that was missing was a good coach, who could get the best out of each player. This man arrived the following season.
The Gerards years (1985–2000)
Eugène Gerards stayed in Crete as coach of OFI for a legendary 15 years. This is still the record tenure for a coach in the Greek League, and will be a feat that lives long in the memory of Cretans. Gerards' first 3 years at the helm in Crete were nothing short of amazing. In 1985/86 OFI finished 2nd in the league and only missed out on becoming champions by 5 points. Gerards continued his revolution with a 3rd-place finish in 1986–87 and 4th place in 1987–88. As Gerards' OFI continued to achieve high finishes in the Greek Championship the team from Crete did something wonderful 21 June 1987. In the Olympic Stadium in Athens they defeated Iraklis 3–1 on penalties winning the Greek Cup. The game had finished 1–1 after regular and extra time. With string league position and victorious in the Cup OFI was at that time one of the major players in Greek football. The 1987–88 season was special for Cretans for another reason too – it was the first time in league history that OFI finished in a higher position than Panathinaikos, beating them 2–1 in Heraklion on the way, with a goal in last minute from Stefanos Vavoulas. This golden era also saw OFI participate in European competition – UEFA Cup 1986 and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup 1987.
The following seasons (1989–90, 1990–91, 1991–92) were not quite as spectacular as what had gone before. OFI finished 6th, 7th and 6th respectively, missing UEFA Cup qualification by a few points each year. In June 1990 OFI played once again in the final of the Greek Cup, this time against Olympiacos. The game took place in Olympiacos' home stadium and OFI lost 4–2.
During the last of those three seasons, OFI brought a young Argentinian star to Crete – Victor Hugo Delgado. However, there was little time for Cretans to enjoy the benefits of his talent as he was soon transferred to Panathinaikos.
In the 1992–93 campaign OFI was in great form once again. OFI finished 4th in the Championship and qualified for the following season's UEFA Cup tournament. The season's great star for OFI was Nikos Nioplias. At the end of the previous season the Vardinogiannis family decided that he might become useful to Panathinaikos, so he became the 3rd player to move to Athens from OFI. Without the team's great star, OFI only managed a 7th-place finish in the 1993–94 Championship. But despite those facts the name of OFI was heard loud and clear all around Europe. That season OFI achieved the unthinkable – they eliminated Slavia Prague in the 1st round of the UEFA Cup and Atlético Madrid in the 2nd round (both 2–1 on aggregate). Nobody in Europe could believe that an unknown quantity like OFI could ever knock out of Europe such illustrious opposition. The famous cup run came to an end when OFI was eliminated in the 3rd round by Portuguese club Boavista (Round of 16). Despite the disappointment there was pride for Cretans to be taken in that their team was the most successful Greek team in European competition that season. In 1994–95, Panathinaikos were in dire need of a striker, and OFI had 2 top rated strikers from the previous season, Nikos Machlas and Alexis Alexoudis. Even though Panathinaikos wanted Machlas, he himself refused to go to Athens, and as a result, Panathinaikos grabbed Alexoudis. OFI ended in the 9th position this year. In the next season, Eugène Gerards tried to build a new team with young players. Yet the Dutchman had lost 2 great players to Panathinaikos and Nikos Machlas was transferred to Vitesse Arnhem. OFI finished 5th and missed qualification for the UEFA Cup in the last game of the season.
1996–97 was an amazing season for "Omilos". With the partipication of Nikos Nioplias (Panathinaikos did not need him anymore, so he was transferred back to OFI), OFI was on 2nd place before the winter break and four of their players were part of the Greek National Team. On the last day of the transfer period, Panathinaikos grabbed Kostas Konstantinidis, the best defender of OFI's squad. Finally OFI finished 3rd in the championship by humiliating Panathinaikos one week before the end and leaving the team from Athens in 5th place, outside the positions leading to UEFA competitions. The whole island of Crete was again celebrating the great performance of OFI.
In the next two seasons, OFI finished in 7th and 8th position respectively, suffering constant humiliations by Panathinaikos in matches between the two, as revenge for what happened in May 1997. In addition to that, Kostas Kiassos, a great OFI midfielder, was the next 'victim' and was transferred to Panathinaikos. Nevertheless, OFI resumed their successful UEFA Cup campaigns. The pride of Crete eliminated Icelandic team KR Reykjavik in the second qualifying round (3–1 on aggregate) and Hungarian team Ferencváros in the 1st round proper,(4–2 on aggregate, with an unforgettable 3–0 victory in Crete). OFI's European dream was ended by AJ Auxerre in the 2nd round of the UEFA Cup.
In the year 2000 and after 15 successful years, Eugène Gerards announced his retirement from OFI's bench as the team finished 4th in the championship. It was the last time that OFI gained a position that lead to European competitions, and the last season that OFI was considered one of the top teams in Greece.
The new era (2000–2009)
The new century found OFI unstable and close to relegation almost every year. While Nioplias and Machlas retired, the team partly suffered from a series of bad rosters and managers. In 2001 OFI really struggled to remain to the 1st League. The next two years, OFI managed to play a little better, thus avoiding low positions easier. But then the dark years came: OFI avoided relegation every year, for one or two points difference.
President Fanouris Vatsinas appointed German Reiner Maurer as a coach in the summer of 2006. Maurer had the team playing greater football, even competing for a European place since the Gerards era. In the 2007 summer, OFI played in the Intertoto cup, but under-performed. The 2007–08 season found the club fighting to avoid relegation once again, and Maurer was sacked. Giorgos Paraschos was brought as a temporary manager, and he was eventually replaced by Czech, František Straka before the start of the new season.
In 2009 OFI suffered from the bad presidency of Fanouris Vatsinas, who was asked by the fans to leave the club. Furthermore, former player Machlas offered a great amount of money in order to purchase the team. OFI started with awful results, Straka was dismissed and Ioannis Matzourakis came to fill his position. During the 2008–09 season, OFI struggled to remain to the Greek Super League, but failed and is in fact relegated to the second division after finishing 16th.
Since relegation OFI has gone into 'meltdown'. Once the season had ended the majority of the clubs senior players filed claims against club President Fanouris Vatsinas for hundreds of thousands of Euros in unpaid wages. As the non payment of wages was also a breach of contract many of them also freed themselves from their Professional contracts with the club and sought new teams for the forthcoming season.
Rivalry with Ergotelis
OFI has enjoyed a fierce rivalry with other local Superleague side, Ergotelis. The first ever game between Ergotelis and OFI, a friendly match in 1929, ended after 35 minutes. Ergotelis were ahead by one goal, when the game had to be abandoned after violence between the players broke out. Under the Greek military junta of 1967–1974, a legislation determined that every regional Greek city should be represented by one football team. At that time, both OFI and Ergotelis used to play in the Second National division. Αt the end of the 1966–1967 season, Ergotelis finished 8th, while OFI finished in a higher position, leading to Ergotelis' relegation. The legislation also allowed the remaining teams in the second division to sign players of the relegated ones, and thus 5 Ergotelis players were transferred to OFI. In the years to come Ergotelis languished in the lower leagues. This led to various controversies, especially since Ergotelis' come back, at the early 2000s. This rivalry has shown signs of diminishing over the years, with OFI fans attending newly promoted Ergotelis' games in the Super League during the club's first season in the competition, and Ergotelis loaning their longtime scoring legend Patrick Ogunsoto to a financially weakened Beta Ethniki side OFI for no fee, as an attempt to assist the latter in their struggle to once again return to the Super League.
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
- President: Antypas Sifakis
- Vice President: Giannis Polemarchakis
- Director of Football: Giorgos Vlastos
- Team Manager: Myronas Sifakis
- Manager: Nikos Nioplias
- Assistant Manager: Thanasis Kolitsidakis
- Goalkeeping coach: Eleftherios Poupakis
- Club Doctor: Vacant
- Club Doctor: Vacant
- Physiotherapist: Vacant
- Physiotherapist: Vacant
- Fitness coach: Vacant
- Conditioning coach: Vacant
- Chief scout: Eugène Gerards
- Director of youth academy: Eugène Gerards
Titles & honours
- Gamma Ethniki
- Winners (1): 2015-16
- Greek Cup
- Balkans Cup
- Winners (1): 1989
- Alpha Ethniki
- Runners-up (1): 1985–86
- Greek Super Cup
- Runners-up (1): 1987
All the European games
|1986–87||UEFA Cup||1st Round||Hajduk Split||1–0||0–4|
|1987–88||Cup Winners' Cup||1st Round||Vitosha Sofia||3–1||0–1|
|1993–94||UEFA Cup||1st Round||Slavia Prague||1–0||1–1|
|2nd Round||Atlético Madrid||2–0||0–1|
|1995–96||Intertoto Cup||Group Stage
|1997–98||UEFA Cup||2nd Qual. Round||KR Reykjavík||3–1||0–0|
|2000–01||UEFA Cup||1st Round||Napredak||6–0||0–0|
|2nd Round||Slavia Prague||2–2||1–4|
|2007–08||Intertoto Cup||3rd Round||Tobol||0–1||0–1|