OFI, or Omilos Filathlon Irakleiou, is a Greek 1st Division football club located in Heraklion, Crete. The club is known mostly for several homegrown players that have gone on to play abroad, such as Nikos Machlas, Giannis Anastasiou, Georgios Samaras and Mahamadou Diarra as well as the co-ownership of the team by the Vardinogiannis family that controls Panathinaikos, a situation that is said to result in humourous results in matches between OFI and Panathinaikos, with Panathinaikos always seeming to win. The only player that has managed to change this situation is Georgios Koutsoupias, on 18 May 1997, by scoring a header and making the score 1-1, a result that enabled OFI to achieve the position that led to UEFA Cup qualification instead of Panathinaikos.
The team of OFI was founded during the autumn of 1925 by a group of athletes who would exersize together at the same gymnasium in the city centre of Heraklion, Crete. The official name given to the sport club was Omilos Filathlon Hrakleiou, which means “Association of Sportsmen in Heraklion” and the colours that the founders of OFI chose were black and white, because no other sport club in Crete of that era had this colour combination. The first written deed of the new association stated that OFI was to participate in a varied range of sporting events. And this has continued through the years.
The founding father's of OFI were also the teams first proud players.
(1925-1940) The years before the World War II
OFI's squad in 1938
The years before the 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 around and participate in national football tournaments. As a result, OFI in this 15year period played hundreds of football matches around the island of Crete and especially with other football sports clubs of Heraklion. Even if official papers do not exist, elderly fans of OFI believed that “Omilos” played around 400 matches before Germans occupied the island of Crete
(1945-1962) First participation in National League
OFI's squad in 1954
After the end of the German’s occupation in Greece, the football tournaments around the country started again. There was only the “First Division” championship, in which participated standard football teams from Athens, Thessaloniki and Piraeus including few teams, which would be promoted from preliminary rounds. Even though, it was almost impossible for a team coming from Greek county to take part in.
That happened, because the Hellenic Football Federation structured a system, where football teams around the country had to participate in lots of preliminary rounds before proceed into the national championship. As a result, even if OFI was ending first football team in Crete, could not take part in a national tournament.
After 1956, the system in Greece changed slightly. The advantageous was that in some seasons, the preliminary rounds were organized in groups of few teams, where the champion of each group 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 ended first. Thus, OFI participated for first time in his history in the Greek National Championship. Unfortunately, the team could not stand the frequent trips around Greece and finished in the last position. Since 1962, when the official 2nd Division Championship organized, OFI tried again but unsuccessfully to take part again in the competition of the 1st Division.
(1962-1968) Tries in the official 2nd League
In 1962/63 the official Greek 2nd division league was structured for first time in Greek football history. OFI was one of the teams that participated in the league and completed the season in the 9th position. In 1963/64 and 1964/65 OFI ended 3rd and 5th respectively.
In 1965/66 OFI was the champion of the 2nd league of Greek football and only one step away from the promotion to the official 1st National Division of Greek football. Unfortunately, the Hellenic Football Federation decided that even if the champions of 2nd league had to play preliminary games in order to promote.
Thus, OFI lost in the play-off matches and remained in the same league. In 1966/67 the disappointment was huge. Even though OFI ended in 3rd position and everyone on the island of Crete was feeling that the moment where they should see the pride of their island on the top league was very close.
26th of June 1968 - 10,000 Cretans celebrating the promotion of OFI in 1st division. Image taken in stadium of Chania after the victory game 3-0 against Paneleysiniakos.
In 1967/68 OFI ended in the 2nd position and was about to play play-off games with the last team of the 1st division. The final match of the preliminary games had been decided to be played in Chania of Crete, in 26/06/1968. OFI with the help of 10,000 Cretans humiliated the team from 1st division with a huge win of 3-0 and made real the dream of thousand supporters…OFI was an official member of the 1st National Division.
(1968-1971) The first official debut in 1st League
OFI’s debut in the national 1st division was very difficult. “Omilos” ended the first round in the 15th position. Everything seemed very hard in order to remain in the league. Although in the 2nd round, Cretans made magnificent games and finally finished in the 12th place. Next season OFI has already gained the experience of playing in the top league of Greek football. The “Snakes” finished in 13th place, but the strange point is that OFI won almost all team of the league in Heraklion. Only two of them managed to survive and leave Crete with 3 points. Thus, even if OFI was not a competent opponent, all the teams had to live a nightmare when had to trip to the island of Crete.
1970/71 was the worse season the team from Heraklion ever had in 1st Division. OFI ended in 17th position and relegated for last time in history in 2nd division. The whole time of year was a tragedy for Cretans. OFI had to meet again “old friends” from 2nd division and start new battles in order to be promoted for a second time.
(1971-1976) For last time in 2nd division
OFI had been relegated again, but this time the 2nd division was changed entirely. After all, the championship was organized more officially and the opponents have been tougher than before.
OFI spent 5 seasons in 2nd division. During the first season, the team was in 1st place continually.
Unfortunately, at the end, OFI’s performance was vitiated and finished 4th.
In 1972/73 the leaders of the team decided to make totalitarian refreshment of the squad. The 13th position of OFI was predictable and a new era of the new stars of OFI had just begun. The next season OFI finished 6th and in 1974/75 finished 5th. Next season the league would be divided again into two groups of 20 teams each. The champion of each group would be promoted directly to First National Division. OFI couldn’t miss this chance.
Everything started perfectly for “Omilos” in 1975/76. He finished 1st at the end of 1st round with huge difference from the 2nd team and concluded the season champion. The whole island of Crete was celebrating the promotion of OFI in 1st division. OFI never relegated again and Cretans would celebrate for different achievements of OFI in the future...
(1976-1985) The years before the arrival of Egen Gerard
Thousands of Cretans celebrating OFI's last promotion in 1st division
During the 3 first seasons’ OFI’s presence in 1st division, the Greek championship was still amateur. In 1976/77, even if OFI was rookie finished in 6th place and caused the admiration of the whole country. In addition to that, Dimitris Papadopoulos finished 1st goal scorer of the season. Next two seasons OFI finished 8th and 7th. The strangest thing of these 2 seasons was that OFI never was defeated in Crete. The “spankers” of the league (Panathinaikos, Olympiakos, AEK & PAOK) had very bad dreams the days before tripping to the island of Crete.
In 1979/80 the championship in Greece became professional and after the middle of the season, Vardinogiannis group bought the football team of OFI (see The rivals). During the season, the team that broke the record of OFI (never lost in Crete since 1977) was Panathinaikos. The team of Athens won in Heraklion extremely easy with 0-3. It was the only loss of Cretans on the island this year. Finally OFI ended in 11th position. Next season Panathinaikos started making his first experiments on OFI. Young players came from all over the country in order to play for “Omilos”. The first experiment of Athenians on OFI was disappointed and OFI ended in 13th position. In 1981/82 OFI ended in 9th place and in 1982/83 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 Panathinaikos or rookies that could be possible to become useful for OFI and why not for Panathinaikos in the future. Thus, in 1983/84 3 goalkeepers, 1 midfieder and 1 defender came from the team of Athens to Crete. The experiments were disappointed again. OFI ended in 8th place, exactly the same place that had next season, too. Even if OFI’s results were not successful, this group of fresh players have gained experience and started act as a team. The only thing that was missing was a good coach, to take the maximum from each one. This man came next season. He was Dutch and named Egen Gerard. This guy changed the history of OFI completely.
(1985-2000) 15 years of glory
Egen Gerard stayed in OFI’s bench for 15 years. This is still one record that might difficult can be broken in Greece. The 3 first years of Egen Gerard in Crete were amazing. In 1985/86 OFI ended 2nd and lost the championship for 5 points only, in 1986/87 finished 3rd and in 1987/88 4th. In addition to those amazing positions in the championship, the proud team from Crete won the Greek Cup in 21th of June, 1987. OFI was now one of the greatest teams of the country. The season 1987/88 was also an amazing improvement for the Cretans.
It was the first time that OFI finished in a better position than Panathinaikos – with an amazing won with 2-1 in Heraklion, with a goal in last minute from Stefanos Vavoulas. During these years OFI participated also for the European cups. The first time was in 1986/87, the second time in 1986/87 and the 3rd time was in the UEFA Cup Winners in 1987/88.
Next season OFI started the championship again in one of the first positions. The team of Crete had brought Vardinogiannis family in a difficult situation, by seeing OFI to be better than their first football team – Panathinaikos. That’s why, in December, Panathinaikos grabbed OFI’s star Jiannis Samaras, the father of today’s Manchester City’s star, Georgios Samaras. The unforgettable moment for OFI fans was that Samaras was crying and did not want to go Panathinaikos. He wanted to stay in Crete and continue playing for OFI. Unfortunately, he could not have this choice for his career. Finally OFI ended 5th during that season. It was quite sure, that with Samaras OFI could do better things that finishing 5th.
Next 3 seasons (1989/90, 1990/91, 1991/92) were medium seasons for the pride of Crete. OFI ended 6th, 7th and 6th again, by loosing for a few points every year the positions that lead to UEFA competitions. One very important incident for OFI’s history was that in June of 1990, competed Olympiakos in the Greek Cup final. The game took place in Olympiakos home stadium and OFI lost 4-2. During the last of those 3 seasons, OFI had brought an Argentinian young star to Crete – Victor Ougo Delgado. Unfortunately, his talent did not last too much, because Panathinaikos decided to grab him and send Giannis Samaras back to Crete.
In 1992/93 OFI was great again. OFI finished 4th and next year could participate in UEFA Cup once again. This year’s great star of OFI was Nikos Nioplias. After the end of previous season, Panathinaikos decided that he might become useful in Athens, so became the 3rd player that grabbed from OFI. Without the presence of his great star, OFI finished 7th in season 1993/94. Even though this season, the name of OFI became famous around Europe. In the 1st round of UEFA Cup, OFI eliminated Slavia Prague and in 2nd round Atletico Madrid. Nobody in Europe could believe that a team from the island of Crete could ever eliminate such great names in European football like Slavia or Atletico. Finally OFI eliminated in the 3rd round of UEFA Cup by Boavista (Round of 16) and was the only team from Greece this year, that lasted in European tournaments so much.
In 1994/95, Panathinaikos needed a striker. What a better solution for them than grabbing a player from OFI. OFI had 2 great strikers previous season. Nikos Machlas and Alexis Alexoudis. Even if Panathinaikos wanted Machlas, he refused to go in Athens and as a result, Panathinaikos grabbed Alexoudis. OFI ended in 9th position this year. Next season, Eigen Gerard tried to rebuild a new team with youth players. The Dutch had lost 2 great stars that grabbed from Panathinaikos and also Nikos Machlas was transferred to Vitesse Arnhem. OFI finished in 5th place and lost the partipication in UEFA Cup in the last game of the league. In 1996/97 was an amazing season for “Omilos”. With the partipication of Nikos Nioplias (Panathinaikos did not want him anymore so they’ve sent him back to Crete), in December OFI was in 2nd place and 4 of his players were playing in the Greek National team. For unknown reasons, the last day of the transfer period, Panathinaikos grabbed Kostas Konstantinidis, the best defender of OFI’s squad. Finally OFI ended 3rd in the championship by humiliating Panathinaikos 1 week before the end and sent the team from Athens to the 5th place and outside the positions lead to UEFA competitions. The whole island, except some managers of OFI, was celebrating the great performance of OFI.
Next 2 seasons, OFI finished in 7th and 8th position. Panathinaikos were humiliating OFI in the games between them as a revenge of what happened in May of ’97. In addition to that, in 1998/99 grabbed Kostas Kiassos, a great midfielder of OFI. Even though, the first of those 2 seasons, OFI made amazing games in the UEFA CUP. The pride of Crete won Reykiavic FC and in the 2nd round humiliated Ferencvaros FC from Hungary with a 3-0 victory in Crete. OFI’s European dream stopped by Auxerre FC in the 3rd round of UEFA Cup.
1999/00 and after 15 successful years, was the last season with Egen Gerad in OFI’s bench and “Omilos” lasted 4th. It was the last time in history OFI gained a position that leads to European tournaments and the last period OFI played good football.
Appearances with OFI's shirt only, in Professional First League only (1980-present)
As of end of 2005-06 season
Appearances with OFI's shirt only, in 1st division generally (1968-71) & (1976-present)
As of April 05, 2006:
As of August 16, 2006:
No. Position Player
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