More than 50 years ago, the Greek basketball club AEK made not only national history, but international history.
On the night of April 4, 1968, tens of thousands of eager fans packed the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens to watch their countrymen take on former Czechoslovakian team Slavia Prague in the European Cup.
Against all odds, AEK defeated their Balkan neighbors 89-82, marking the first time in history that a Greek team won a European Cup.
The win symbolized a victory not only for the players and 80,000 spectators in the stadium that night, but also for the entire nation of Greece as it remained under military dictatorship.
Such large events were normally subject to restrictions, curfews and other barriers, but government officials made an exception for the historic AEK-Slavia match.
Tens of thousands of fans who could not view the game live experienced the excitement through live commentary from radio announcer Vasilis Georgiou.
Georgiou’s commentary during the game’s final minutes remains among the most iconic in Greek sports.
“They are the queen of Europe! AEK is the champion of Europe!” he shouted. “The dream became reality! Greece won! AEK won! And the scene within the Panathenaic Stadium has become: AEK, Greece, Europe!”
Years later, Georgiou recalled the historic night.
“It was something unique. It was Greece’s first European trophy. I happened to be the announcer of that match and we certainly had great moments,” he said. “I was on the radio and Faidonas Konstantoudakis on the written press. The game was scheduled for 8:30pm and I — as always — arrived at the stadium early. It was a quarter past 6:00pm and I saw something unprecedented. The Panathenaic Stadium was crowded and people continued to come. I thought that the fans had confused the game’s start time.”
Listen to Vasilis Georgiou’s commentary during the final minutes
Massive celebrations followed as Athenians quickly mobilized to embrace their heroes. By the end of the night the team found itself in a nightclub, celebrating the victory in typical Greek fashion.
The 1968 European Cup victory added to what later became known as AEK’s “Golden Era.” The club had already won the Greek League championship four consecutive years — 1963-1966 — before winning the European trophy.
The following day, newspapers featured prominent headlines celebrating the victory and hailing it as a national moment.
Daily morning sports paper “I Athlitiki Iho,” or “The Sports Echo,” ran a headline which read:
“Immortal AEK Gives Greece Its First World Glory”
Representation in film
In 2018, director Tassos Boulmetis released a film adaptation about the historic victory called “1968.” The film depicts the events which lead up to AEK’s unlikely triumph, including how a group of refugees from Constantinople had formed the sports club in 1924.
The film is available for rent or purchase via Amazon.
Watch the trailer
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