Football Murals – Panathinaikos

Home is where the heart rings true for many clubs and things are no different at Panathinaikos. This is where the giant Athens club plays football at the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium.

More known for the oversized shamrock symbol which has adorned the front of the green shirt since 1918, the home stadium is located in downtown Athens. It sits just in the shadow of Lycabettus Hill on Alexandras Avenue or ‘Leoforos’.  

Trees do still stand along Alexandras Avenue the wide street that runs past the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium. And these days a selection of restaurants can be found nearby the stadium.  

The pitch inside meanwhile remains the main theater come match-day, although fans of the club would suggest the real story of any fixture starts in the stands with green flares, pyro smoke, and flags.

Color and noise at Panathinaikos actually starts outside at Gate 13; the fabled entrance to the curved home terrace behind the goal.  Off the main street, Gate 13 has another distinctive aspect of character as it is here that graffiti takes over.

The selection of images are stunning; from figures in ancient Greek mythology through to images of fans holding flags and flares.

The Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium was the first stadium in Greece that had a purpose built spectator stand one that was built around 1928. For many decades it hosted several important domestic and international games of the Greek national team.

It was also the first stadium in Greece to use floodlights.

The club hit a peak in the early 1970’s when a European Cup final was reached but by the 1980’s the ground was a crumbling relic. In 1984 they moved to the Olympic Stadium but the team returned to its historical ground in 2000 following refurbishment.

After the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, both AEK Athens and Panathinaikos moved to play here again. But during season 2007/08, Panathinaikos once again went back to its roots in order to celebrate a century since its foundation.

But under civic pressure, the club again from 2008 until 2013 went to play at the Olympic Stadium as its principal home ground.  But this era ran parallel to the global financial crisis of 2008 and the economic pain that has ensued in Greece seemingly for years after.

With the crisis, plans to demolish the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium collapsed, and an idea for a new club stadium in the industrial area of Eleonas was mothballed.

In 2013 a decision was made to return once again to the home ground.  

While ownership of the Panathinaikos Stadium is a somewhat complex issue, the club has by right of historical association free ‘right of use’.   The football club, assisted by its many fans, have gradually refurbished the team’s main ground since 2013. The main objectives have been to increase capacity and offer fans an atmospheric ground aligned to club history and the wider needs of UEFA competition.

Many against the redevelopment have suggested that the present football arena meets all current supporter needs.

Meanwhile football governance in Greece has become staggeringly chaotic.

On a number of occasions, league fixtures have been suspended and the whole set up has seen political squabbling between the League, the Greek Football Federation, the referees’ association and the Athens-based government.

The derby matches between the two Athens giants are now played without away fans due to horrific episodes of violence.

Whether a multimedia outer shell for the stadium becomes a reality is doubtful although this would appear to be what the club wants long-term.  Money is incredibly tight in Greece and it has been some time since the team qualified for the Champions League group stages; qualification that would bring in much-needed revenue.

For the time being at least, it is the fan murals that provide the color.