Interview with a representative fan group Panthers (Panionios, Nea Smyrna)

  Again we return to Athens. Panionios is considered quite a serious team in the scale of Greece and has a very impressive fan base. However, with all of this club is very difficult to compete in popularity with three Athenian giants. Nevertheless Panionios trying to compete with them and has long established itself as the fourth team of the Greek capital. His Panthers fan movement is one of the top in the country and has repeatedly stated his anti-fascist positions.


- What's your name? How long you support Panionios?

- My name is Marios. I began to support the team even when I was a small child.


- Tell us about your city and the region.

- Athens, as you know, is the capital of Greece with a population of 4 million people. Our area of Nea Smyrna was founded by refugees in 1922, when the Greeks left their homes in Smyrna (now Izmir) for genocide by the Turks and had to move to Greece. It is a small town with shops, restaurants and the famous square! It is 4 kilometers from the center of Athens, and 3 km from the sea. Nea Smyrni is an area where you can find anything you want! We are very lucky to live here. In Nea Smyrna there is only one football club, our club Panionios. It is the oldest club in Greece. We are trying to survive in a city-wide, in Athens are three of the most popular clubs in Greece (Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK).


- Tell history your team. What are its main achievements?

- The club was founded in 1890 in Smyrna (Σμύρνη) currently İzmir, under the name of "Orpheus Music and Sports Club"[citation needed] by part of the Greek population living in the city during the Ottoman era. In 1893 some Orpheus members keen on sports formed a separate organization, the "Gymnasion Club", and started holding yearly sports competitions. In 1898, Orpheus and Gymnasion merged again to form Panionios GSS. Members of the Panionios sports club represented Greece in all international track & field games until these developed in the modern Olympic Games.

After the Greek military defeat in 1922 the club was forced to transfer firstly in Athens and later to the Athenian suburb of New Smyrna where lots of the population of Smyrna immigrated. The club has a tradition of cultivating all major sports and was the first Greek club to establish a track and field division for women, in 1925. Another major example of the club's contribution to Greek sports rests in the fact that it was Panionios that introduced Basketball and Volleyball in Greek sports society.

With the gradual transformation of men's football and basketball into professional sports, Panionios FC and Panionios BC became privately owned clubs operating under the auspices of the traditional "amateur sports" Panionios GSS. To date, Panionios remains the only sports club in Greece that was awarded the Golden Cross from the Athens Academy as a recognition of the club's rich and continuous enrichment of Greek sports.

Panionios has spent nearly its entire history in the Greek First Division (now called 'Superleague'), having missed out from competing in Greek football's top division only twice in its more than 100-year history. Within this, Panionios rose quite often to high levels, with top achievement in terms of the league being the 2nd position that the club reached in 1971, losing the title to AEK.

Panionios has produced all three major Greek strikers of the 1980s, namely Nikos Anastopoulos (later of Olympiakos), Thomas Mavros (later of AEK), and Dimitris Saravakos (later of Panathinaikos). Other notable players coming out of the club in the 1990s include Nikos Tsiantakis (later of Olympiacos) and Takis Fyssas, later of Panathinaikos, Benfica and member of Greek national team. Within the 2000s another four Greek national team players came out from the club, namely Alexandros Tziolis, Evangelos Mantzios, Nikos Spiropoulos and Grigoris Makos.

The club had faced financial difficulties which triggered the transfer of the ownership to the municipality of Nea Smyrni in 1992. Those difficulties remained all through the 1990s forcing the team's league performance to drop. Yet, it remained in a high level and managed to win the Greek Football Cup competition in 1998 and participate successfully in the UEFA Cup Winners Cup the year after, reaching the quarterfinals. In December 2001 large part of the club's shares moved away from the Municipality back to private hands, where working around bankruptcy legislation the club was renamed to Neos ("New") (we shame on, about that, is a black spot on our history).

Panionios FC, to avoid the threat of relegation from the first division. In 2004, shipowner Constantinos Tsakiris was elected president of the "amateur sports" Panionios GSS. Panionios won the women's Basketball Championship in 2006, the club's first in a team sport, and the women's volleyball team advanced to the first division. In 2006, Tsakiris acquired 85% of Neos Panionios FC stock and started restructuring the team from scratch. He changed the name of the club back to the original "Panionios GSS" FC and hired German coach Ewald Lienen who, during his first year created a team that made it to the top 5 of the Greek Super League and on to the UEFA Cup.

Thus the main achievements of the football club is to win the Greek Cup (in 1979 won in the final 3-1 AEK Athens, in 1998 defeated Panathinaikos 1-0), as well as the conquest of the Balkan Cup (1971). We participated many times in the UEFA Cup, 2 times out in the quarterfinals (1972, 1999). Last time we took part in the group stage in the 2004/2005 season with Newcastle, Sporting, Dinamo Tbilisi and Sochaux, as well as in the 2007/2008 season with Bordeaux, Galatasaray, Vienna Austria and Helsingborg. Recently our participation in the European Cup was in the 2008/2009 season, in the Intertoto Cup we lost to Napoli.


- What are the political views of the fans Panionios?

- Our political views are clearly on the left side. We are antifascists ultras. We hate nazis and nazis ultras. We have gone in many antifa marches, and we try until today, to be no more any fascist/rascist fact in our stadium and in our area. When we go for a match in our home, we try to have a balance on our crowd. But we are clearly antifascist group.


- Tell us about the history of the club Panionios fan movement.

- At the beginning of 80’s young group of Panionios fans was hanging around the center of Athens, Nea Smirni. They decided to organize a group which will support the oldest greek club. At that time, at the greek scene there was a bunch of hooligans, and all that football and fans looked like a wild jungle with no rules and laws. Because of that, that boys decided to call their fan club Panthers.

Panther is one of the strongest and most dangerous animals which lives in jungle. With panther you can’t play, and if you try to hurt him – you are dead! First couple of years were though. Who ever called him a Panther and be proud of that, was a target of police, even with no reasons. There are many cases of arresting Panionios fans which spent many days in prisons only because they are Panthers.

1983 - they found a fan club office, and had a first organised trip to Thessaloniki on match agains Iraklis. At that time, Panthers supported their club in very hard situation. Panthers were on every home and away match, no matter where, and supported Panionios.

They became famous in Greece and in whole Europe. At the match in Rome, Lazio-Panionios, local radio commentator spoke 5 minutes about Panionios fans, and also he couldn’t be hearded couple of times,because of,as he said 200 crazy Panthers!

We have expanded the influence Panionios of outside Nea Smyrna, local clubs were Brahimi, Daphne, Thessaloniki, as well as in other places where it was possible. Panthers and Panionios becamed one, and commentators kept saying the comments as „Panionios today beated Panathinaikos as a wild Panther!“ 

Do you know what is the feeling of being a Panther? If you ever been at the stadium or street, you can feel that person – a fan which stay behind you is your brother, and supporting Panionios is out of question. If you don’t feel like you are retarded or you are not a Panther. Fan club rather want to have a 1000 of Panthers than 10 000 of sheeps. Many boys camed and went from Panthers fan club, but no mather what kind of hard moments they had, one thing will always be known: Panthers were always with Panionios. We don’t think that Panionios is just our club, it’s our way of life. We have, and we will always lead our philosophy, if there is necessary to show our love to Panionios staying in the police station many days, come home with bloody head, fight with other fans and cross thousands of kilometres chearing Panionios, we will do that.

The stadium we are present at Gate 3. Here we stand the entire match and sing our love for the club and its colors. Also in our sector there are many children who sing the song, but do not take part in the fights.


- How do you usually spend weekend? What performance do to games?

- We have a quote that we say: All our lives is a Sunday, beers, football and songs! We live for the match-days. We wake up early in the morning and we start our day with some traditional greek drinks (ouzo, raki etc). After that, come the beers... a lot of beers... thousands of beers! Beers and songs 2 hours before the game, outside the stadium, in our club, at the stress near the stadium. We hang our banners, we take our position, and we have always pyro. Pyro is not a crime! Especially in derbys against Panathinaikos, Olympiakos and AEK, we create fantastic atmosphere. You can find videos in youtube on our official channel.

- Is there fans of other teams with whom you have established friendly relations? Who are you at enmity?

- We don't have relations with other clubs in greece. Only a great respect with PAOK fans, cause of an incident in which we help them against the police. We have a great friendship with Genoa Fans and Crystal Palace fans. We are brothers with them, we do a lot of trips in England and in Italy to visit them!

We hate all the fans. Especially Gate7 (Olympiakos), Gate13 (Panathinaikos), Original21 (AEK), Super3 (Aris Salonica) and Atromitos fans (Fentagin) we have great rivalry.

- What is your relationship with the team Apollon Smyrni F.C.?

- Apollo is not from the area of Nea Smyrni. Apollo was founded in 1891 in Smyrna, a year after the founding of our club. Now their home stadium is located in the Athens area Rizoupoli. We have relationships with them neutral.


- As things stand now with the Nazis in Greece? Strongly influence whether the Golden Dawn in your area?

- At the moment i don't think that there many fascists fans in Greece. There are for sure, but they don't show their beliefs. They cover them i think with the "No Politica".

In Nea Smyrni there are no fascists.. We control the area. We organise with locas antifa organisations marches. I don't think that any fascist would dare to come in Nea Smyrni. There are no golden dawn in Nea Smyrni and we hope that this madness will ends soon.


- What do you think about the murder of Pavlos Fyssas?

- The murder of Pavlos Fyssas was a crime against the free people, against the free expression. We have to stand together against the criminals of the golden dawn, to face them and beat them, to end this. We have to be strong.


- What is your relationship with the club and the players? What about the financial situation?

- We have relations with the players of our club. But we want one thing from them. To give their heart for the team, all of their strength, to be focus on every game. If they don't do this, and make fun of us, they don't belong on the team. The same things, we want and from the club leadership. The financial situation is the worst of any club in greece. We play with players of our academy and from the reserve team. We have 2 foreign players. But we endure. We are strong, we are a big family and we hold up in every situation!


- How would you describe the ultras scene in Greece?

- The Greek ultras scene, i think is one of the top of the world. We create great atmosphere, we have passion, voice, pyro! Every derby is known in all the world. Panathinaikos - Olympiakos for example.

The ratio of the right side is 10% i think. We have often fights with fascists, especially on the antifa marches. In 80s was on the mood to be a nazi ultras. Panathinaikos had the NOPO (nazi organisation Panathinaikos fans), AEK has Ghetto club, Olympiakos always had and has even today fascist in his crow.


- As far as I know your club, too, were the Nazis among fans.

- Yes, we were Nazis. But we drove them out and now they do not come to the stadium. They were gone without resistance. For many years, we in the stands everything is fine.


- Do you participate in street protests?

- We take part in the streets protest action. At the antifa marches, at the marches against the government. We, the ultras we have a lot of power and we can motivate people to stand together to fight the injustice! We must stand!

We also have a good relationship with Radical Fans United, we helped to organize protests against the World Cup in Brazil in support of the working class.

- In Greece strict laws about the fans?

- In greece there are strict laws for us.  I think, they don't want us! They try to forbid everything! For example, if they catch you with pyro, you may go to prison for a year or more. Imagine the situation! We fight the cops! They haven't soul, they are no human. They are just jigsaws of the government. In every city, in every neighbourhood, in every stadium we must fight them!

- As you experience a fight with other fans?

- We never use knives and guns. We are opposed to modern fans and do not want to ultras killed each other. We prefer to only fight hand to hand or with the help of things. The latter is a serious attack on our bar was about 5 years ago.

- Often you go to away games?

- We try to drive on tour on every match. We usually take the bus and we drive in all over Greece! From Salonica to Crete, from Tripoli to Komotini (near the borders with Turkey). We have done a lot o kilometres and we continue to do for our love!

- How much is a ticket for the match? Is it possible to get on tribune for free?

- Most people buy tickets at a price not more than 20 euros for home games. Tickets for our tribune Gate 3 cost 10 euros. For VIP-persons from 30 euros. I think this is one of the cheapest stadiums in Greece. You can go free if you go to the match with us. It is very easy to do.


- Do you support your club in other sports?

- Panionios is one of the oldest sports clubs in Greece and specializes in a variety of different sports. Has a glorious history of the basketball team (participation in the Euroleague, the victory in the Cup of Greece in 1991, resplendent players such as Boban Jankovic - our legend for the team he sacrificed health and was paralyzed for life). We have a basketball arena Nea Smyrna Indore Hall (capacity - 2,500) and games with the principal rival there may 3000 is our fans. Mad atmosphere. Also we have a water polo team (finalist of the European Cup in 2009 and 2011), volleyball, cycling, judo, etc. We try to be present everywhere to support all club teams. And we successfully cope with this.


- Do you have fan clubs in other cities of Greece?

- In all over Greece there are fans of Panionios. The main fan is located in Nea Smyrna, and fans from other cities organized by local clubs. For example, in Thessaloniki. Also abroad have fan clubs in Australia, USA, England.

- Do you own any room or bar?

- Yes, we have a room and a bar with a games console, computer, poker tables. This is our place where we feel free. Also, we love table football, we can play it for hours. We had our own clubs in the area Kalithea, Brahimi, in the northern part of Athens. Now we are going in our big club in Nea Smyrna.


- What is your attitude to alcohol and marijuana?

- We have a lot of this, especially in away matches. To pass the time we have a beer, grass, reggae music! This is the best time of our lives!


- Do you participate in what is social projects?

- We are engaged in every six months blood donation in hospitals we hand over blood for people who really need it. Also engaged in collecting clothes and food for the homeless. Last summer we collected medicines for the Palestinian people. Our duty to help people in need, we do everything we can.

- What the ultras scene do you like best? What do you know about ultras in Russia?

- I know that in Russia as well as we have strong passions and rivalries between teams. Fans hardened in fights and stadiums can create a unique atmosphere.

I like the Italian scene with their songs and passion. They live football. Another striking Fan Culture in Argentina. I think that at this time is the best German scene. Fantastic choreography, great atmosphere even in the third division. Now in Greece, we are trying to promote the theme "Support your local club". Now it turns out badly, but we hope that one day we will be able to achieve this.


- What are your future plans?

- We will continue to follow Panionios where he did not play, even at the edge of the world. It is our duty, our passion, and we will do it! This is our main intent. And at the same time continue to be strong, in spite of all the difficulties we encounter!


- Your wishes to our readers.

- Thank you for the opportunity to talk about our culture, about our club, our Antifa Ultras scene. I wish you all the best on your way, and I hope that we will in the future be able to talk to you again.


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