An APOEL A Day Keeps The Europa League Away

Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia are on the verge of becoming the first team from that nation to reach the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.

In a group that contains FC Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Zenit St. Petersburg, APOEL  are just one win away from huge success after they beat Porto 2-1 on matchday four of the group stages.

But who are they and where have they come from?

APOEL is short for Athlitikos Podosfairikos Omilos Ellinon Lefkosias Athletic Football Club of Greeks of Nicosia – quite a mouthful. They were one of the founding members of the Cyprus FA after being founded themselves in 1926.

It was not always an easy ride for one of the most successful teams of that nation, with low wages and not much money, many clubs became professional in the 1990s and this led to crippling debts for some sides.

APOEL was one of them but managed to escape in 1997 as board member and fan Mike Ioannides decided that the club would become a public company which then allowed them to begin from scratch and escape such large debts amassing as much as seven figures.

APOEL won their first of 21 Championships in 1936 (just 10 years after their formation) and went on to win another four in succession. They won three more titles in from 1947 to 1949 and only one in the 50’s.

Titles in ’65 and ’73 followed and in their last few years as an amateur club they added two more titles in 1980 and ’86. As they struggled with life as a professional team they still managed to win three titles in ’90, ’92 and ’96.

As they grew as a club the success has grown as well and they have largely dominated since 2000. ’02, ’04, ’07, ’09 and 2011 all resulted in triumph.

They have also won 19 domestic cups in their history, the first being in 1937 and the last having come in 2008. 12 Super Cups (equivalent of our Community Shield) have also been added to the collection starting in 1963 and their most recent one was in 2011.

Despite having 21 league titles APOEL have only done the double on four occasions and the last time being in 1996. Amazingly this was when they were riled with debt.

Some notable players that currently play for APOEL are Nuno Morais, a former Portuguese U21 international who was on Chelsea’s books between 2004 and 2007 making four appearances.

Former players you may have heard of are Australian Paul Okon who played for Middlesbrough, Lazio and Leeds United among others.

Others include former Colombia and Middlesbrough player Hamilton Ricard, Chris Bart-Williams, who featured for Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Charlton Athletic, and former Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Reading journeyman Dean Gordon.

As APOEL sit third in their league after just eight games they will be paying full attention to the UEFA Champions League as they are on the verge of making history.

Nick Houlton

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